Wednesday, February 06, 2019

How India's drone story is ready to take off

On a sunny afternoon during the month of March 2018 government officials from the DGCA and the Airport Authority of India huddled around a handful of engineers on the runway of the Mysore to understand and discuss how we implemented the system, how scalable this was for other drones in the country and what would the complications be along the way.
The demonstration was the first step to convincing regulators that the security aspect of the Digital Sky system can be implemented in an efficient and secure way. We continued working on our implementation of the NP-NT system and proceeded to make improvements to several parts including the permission workflow. On July 1, 2018, there was another demonstration in Rohini Heliport in New Delhi. In front of several ranked officials from various government bodies such as the DGCA, MHA and, the Indian army, Airforce and the Navy, an improved version of our Digital Sky prototype was demonstrated.

This time the officials got their first real experience of how the permission approval process would work when they were given complete control to deny and/or allow our drone from taking off . A reporting mechanism for when the drone violated permission parameters was also demonstrated as an improvement beyond the Mysore trial. It was now up to the various ministries to evaluate, judge and formulate a final version of the regulations that would incorporate Digital Sky with NP-NT hopefully at the heart of it.

During a fairly uneventful night on August 27th, our phones began to buzz with notifications that the final iteration of the first set of drone regulationswas out. Why was this so important? Because unlike the previous documents from the DGCA this did not have the word “DRAFT” watermarked across the pages, the removal of the word indicated finality, this was it. 3 years of consultations, numerous closed letters, open houses and 2 proof of concepts later we finally had a set of regulations on our hands.Printouts in one hand, slices of pizza in the other, markers drawn and eyes focused we dove into the regulations to understand what the future would be and how our lives would change.

While the DGCA was busy addressing common questions about the country’s new laws we stayed up late, to dissect, debate and digress the entire document and understand all the little details of it. Slowly it dawned on us that not only was NP-NT mentioned about 7 times it was a requirement that would play an integral part in the final framework. We had a quiet sense of collective realisation settling into the room, a realization that not only did our efforts to make NP-NT a viable concept pay off, we had also contributed to the national cause in a way that many of us may never be involved again.
06/02/19 Mughilan Thiru Ramasamy,CEO, Skylark Drones/