Of late, lots of interest is being shown for the use of
Unmnanned Aircraft / Drones in the country both for commercial and
recreational purposes. While drones have a potential for a large
number of civil applications, their use, besides being a safety
issue, also poses a security threat, as well as having the
potential for invading privacy.
The airspace over the Indian cities already has a high density
of aircraft traffic and the unregulated use of drones poses a grave
threat for air collisions and accidents.
In light of the above, I am of the considered opinion that
issues of security, enforcement and penalty, have not been
adequately dealt with under the draft Guidelines. For instance, the
Guidelines provide that a drone shall not be sold in any way
without the permission from the DGCA. Now without adequate
enforcement and penalty provisions, such a provision will remain
ineffective. Drones continue to be sold unabated in markets and it
will be extremely difficult to enforce the provision of seeking
DGCA's permission for "any sale of drones" in
There has to be a monetary penalty associated with the
unauthorized use of drones in India, as against the incumbent
penalty of merely cancelling / suspending the operating permit
issued by the DGCA. Take for instance, the recent case in the US in
October last year, where the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),
imposed a hefty penalty amounting to USD 1.9 million on a startup
– SkyPan International – for conducting drone flights
without the required authorization from the regulator.
Without adequate monetary fines, the penalty provisions of the
Guidelines will lack the proper 'bite' to make them
effective and be taken seriously. The regulator should also
seriously consider penalty provisions to make it obligatory upon
the 'offenders' to deposit the penalty amount in an escrow
account pending litigation. This will ensure that the operators of
UAS take their responsibilities seriously and do not fall foul of
their regulatory obligations.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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Nishith Desai Associates is a research-based Indian law firm with offices in Mumbai, Silicon Valley, Bangalore, Singapore, Mumbai BKC, Delhi and Munich that aims at providing strategic, legal and tax...
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