India's Drone Policy: Domestic and Global Imperatives

Rajeswari P RAJAGOPALAN, Rahul Krishna
ICAO Scientific Review: Analytics and Management Research (ceased publication)  •  Volume 1  •  2019  •  pp. 053-068

This study analyzes the scope of the regulations developed by India’s administration with regards to civilian and commercial usage of drones. It also addresses the proposed mechanism to implement the regulations. The paper addresses two noteworthy questions that need to be answered. The first being whether regulatory measures are essential for the establishment of the operation of drones and secondly, to address questions of privacy and the conflict of trespass.

The use of drones for a variety of applications in civil, commercial and military domains has become common. Nonetheless, the policies and regulations that are required to ensure safe and secure drone operations are struggling to keep apace of drone technological developments. The Indian administration in December of 2018 released a policy that legalized the operation of drones by civilians.

The policy released by the Indian civil aviation administration, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is analyzed along with the announced implementation plan to introduce these policy changes by the administration. The authors raise important questions related to issues of trespass and incursions of privacy because both subjects need more attention under the newly suggested policy. Intrusions by UAVs are divided into two categories, those committed by civilians and those committed by the government. The authors analyze India’s legislation on privacy which may be applied to UAVs and study the gaps in the regulations. The authors attempt to propose alternative solutions to address these issues.

The article contributes to existing literature on the subject of drones and outlines the evolution of India’s policy highlighting areas and making suggestions for improvement. The article also contributes to the global governance debates on UAVs, including those led by ICAO identifying some of the issues faced by emerging players in developing economies trying to harness the potential of drones.

The study proposes several best practices for operators to avoid privacy centric conflicts while operating drones. The study asserts that the data collection processes by UAVs should be guided by the principles enshrined in data protection laws such as the laws of the General Data Protection Regulations of the EU. The study takes stock of the different positions of countries in respect to drone policies. The study also explores opportunities for cooperation in the governance of drones and for India’s potential to assume a more prominent role as a leading regulator in the global effort to address global imperatives.

On the domestic front, the study argues that India needs to assume a leading role and create a set of best practices for drone operators that address issues of privacy and trespass as well as provide a framework to limit the usage of drones for government surveillance. On a global level, the authors argue that India can contribute to the creation of global rules of the road for UAVs and work with other nations towards the standardization of requirements and their enforcement.

Given the technological advancements, use of drones for commercial and other developmental agenda will become a reality. Researchers will need to push for more policy debates on use of drones.

Drone Regulations, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Remotely Piloted Aircrafts (RPAs), Commercial Drones and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
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