Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Aviation ministry allows IndianOil to use drones for aerial surveillance of Delhi-Panipat pipeline

New Delhi: In a first for India, an oil marketing company has been allowed to use drones for aerial surveillance of its pipeline. The aviation ministry has approved IndianOil’s (IOC) request to use drones for keeping an eye from the sky on its Delhi-Panipat pipeline.

The move is expected to help bring down oil theft worth several hundred crores in India, and avoid the safety risk thereof at a fraction of the cost, said a senior ministry official. It also opens up an opportunity for surveillance drones for oil, gas and water pipelines across the country, he added.

The aviation ministry on Monday (June 6) issued this first of its kind order for use of drones in India. IOC had last month sought permission to use remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) or drones for aerial surveillance of their pipelines. After examining the same, the ministry has granted conditional exemption to IOC for operating RPAS for aerial surveillance of their pipelines for four months with effect from July 6, 2020, or till further orders, whichever is earlier.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has attached conditions while allowing IOC to use drone for surveillance of the Delhi-Panipat section of its Mathura-Jalandhar pipeline. These include using drones only during day (sunrise to sunset) and within visual line of sight. The aviation regulator has asked IOC to take the required clearances from local administration and the ministries of home and defence, Indian Air Force and Airports Authority of India.

In past few weeks, the aviation ministry has been allowing the use of drones for new purposes like fighting the drone menace by aerial spraying of pesticides. Drones were even allowed to be deployed at night for this purpose. According to a senior aviation ministry official, the agriculture ministry has got the nod for night operation of drones and use of engine-powered drones with all-up weight upto 50 kg for anti-locust ops. Night operations are supposed to be more effective since the locust are literally caught napping then, the official had said.

India is currently in the process of finalising Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2020, that cover the entire spectrum of drones — right from manufacture to usage. The aviation ministry had on June 5 invited public comments on the draft rules within 30 days after which the final rules will be issued. Keeping safety and security concerns in mind, the rules once finalised will progressively pave the way for using drones for e-commerce.
08/07/20 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India
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