Date: 7 December, 2020
by Sampada Kapoor, UILS, Panjab University
The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, are being extensively used these days. These are governed by the Airforce Act, 1950 and by The Ministry of Civil Aviation. In December 2018, The Ministry of Civil Aviation released a set of rules and regulations governing drones in India.
1. An age limit of 18 years is prescribed to fly drones.
2. A limit of 400 feet vertically and visual line of sight beyond which drones cannot fly.
3. An online portal “DigitalSky” provides for registration of these remotely piloted aircrafts.
4. For registration, the drones have been classified into five categories according to their weights:
Nano (less than 250 g),
Micro (250g – 2kg),
Large (more than 150 kg).
[The Nano category drones do not require any registration and can fly till 50 feet. For all the other categories, registration is must.]
5. No- fly zones- 5 kilometres of radius from the airports, Vijay Chowk in New Delhi, Military base, International border and government bodies.
6. Permission is needed from the Indian Air Force, Air Traffic Control and the Flight Information Centre before the drone can fly in a particular area.
7. The Mandatory conditions which need to be present in a drone are: GPS, ID Plate, Return to Home feature, Anti Collision Light and A flight controller with flight data logging capability.
PROBLEM OF LAW
As we know, the right to privacy has become a fundamental right of a citizen. Its violation is highly prone by the use of drones in the airspace. The high definition cameras of the drone not only capture the images of people but can also capture the voice. While Indian laws like the Information Technology Act presents the idea of privacy, they cannot be directly applied in this case. Data captured by these drones can be sensitive personal data of the user, which can be misused further. The 2018 regulations only mention in one line that drones should not violate the privacy of the individual. Is that sufficient to stop privacy invasion?
Air Traffic Management
Like a traditional aircraft, drones are neither easy to track nor easy to communicate with. In an extremely dangerous incident, an Air India flight almost collided with a UAV at Leh airport in 2014. The Air Traffic Control (ATC) at Leh, operated by the Indian Air Force, had no information regarding the UAV that was flying close to the runway and remained undetected on the radars. In another such incident, a drone flying very close to the IGI Airport in New Delhi was seen by ATC personnel, unaided by binoculars or any other device. It was flying at about 1,500 meters above ground level, well within radar range but still was not picked up by any radar equipment. As the instances of drone interrupting with aircrafts are increasing, is the existing infrastructure well enough to manage the traffic of drones as well? Can the authorities fix a path for them as there is for flights? Is there a need to track the Nano category drones?
Trespass of Private Property
Trespass to a property is generally considered via land. But can drones also not violate this right? This aspect has been left untouched by the latest guidelines. However, the Indian Penal Code guarantees punishment against private trespass but it does not cover the airspace aspect of the property. While branches of a tree of the neighbor is considered trespassing, shouldn’t a drone flying be considered the same? The vertical property rights of an owner should also be defined with the coming in of the drone regulation.