Thursday, July 16, 2020

India should explore remote drone identification instead of mandatory pre-flight clearance: Chinese drone maker DJI

Chinese drone maker DJI has recommended that India’s Civil Aviation Ministry look at remote identification of drones instead of insisting on the no permission no takeoff (NPNT) protocol that is currently mandated in India, the company’s policy lead for India and Sri Lanka, Mitul Arora said while speaking to MediaNama. Remote ID is the ability of a drone in flight to provide identification information that can be received by other parties. This is one of the recommendations that the company has made to the Ministry as part of a consultation process on the draft drone rules, which ended on July 10. DJI is perhaps the biggest drone manufacturer globally, and claims a market share of about 70%.

The draft rules, which were published last month, are an effort to form dedicated regulation around drone usage, as they are currently regulated as part of Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), enacted in December 2018, under the Aircraft Act. According to current drone regulations, a clearance is required from the DGCA before each drone takes flight. Called NPNT (no permission no takeoff), it is conceptually a green signal without which drones aren’t authorised to fly. The new draft rules have retained this particular requirement.
However, when the government had first enacted drone regulations in December 2018, DJI had openly criticised the NPNT protocol saying that it “places heavy restrictions on the location, flight path, and time for operating drones, including a colour-coded system for how and where drones can fly”. It disliked NPNT so much so that it even said that it won’t “introduce the majority of our products to India until regulators re-evaluate Digital Sky”. It has been over one and a half years since the enactment of the regulation, and the Digital Sky platform is yet to be functional to allow NPNT clearance. The Civil Aviation Ministry has worked “very hard” to operationalise the Digital Sky platform but there are challenges to something this complex, Arora said.
In contrast, Arora argued that Remote ID is a far simpler feat to achieve as it “can be implemented with just a firmware update on most drones”. These technologies were less accessible in the past, he said, “but are now being implemented by regulators around the world and there is a globally recognised standard in place that can easily be adopted by any country”. “The remote identification system along with geofencing national security sites and airports is a good way to advance the drone industry within the Indian market in a way that is safe and secure,” Arora added.
15/07/20 Soumyarendra Barik/Medianama
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