The guidelines and prerequisites to fly a drone in India

Do you want to fly a drone? Want to know what are the requirements to obtain a permission? In this article the general guidelines for flying a drone and the necessary documents which are required for its operation are mentioned step by step. Read on to know more.


Unlike in the USA and other western countries, flying a Drone, which is also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), is not much prevalent in India. Now its use is gaining momentum for its wide range of operations and a detailed look into various aspects of its use is necessary.

What is a drone

A drone is an unmanned aircraft system, it has no human pilot inside and is controlled by an operator from the ground.

It is always exciting to own an unmanned aircraft system like drone that can fly in the open sky with the user's control from ground, but you must follow certain rules so that it doesn't hurt others. While driving a car, you follow rules of that particular territory based on the grade of the road, degree of curves and traffic movement. In case of drones the rules are stricter because the area of operation is open sky where manned aircraft also flies and moreover there are chances of intrusion into restricted zones if not controlled properly.

Purpose of using a drone

Drones are used for different purposes and categorized according to their specific use. Generally, its use is classified in the following three categories.

Recreation: Recreational use of drone is very limited and mainly for fun – like flying a drone on the beach, flying a drone in an open space as pastime, aeromodelling, etc.

Business: The most important business use of a drone is in aerial photography. By using the drone camera, pictures and videos are taken for a particular event. It is also used for security purpose, inspection or land surveys and in agriculture.

Public entities: The drone is used as public entity when it is used for any law enforcing agencies, disaster management agencies or any other government agencies.

India's aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has published the civil aviation requirements (CAR) for flying drones by civilians in August 2018. According to the CAR, the classification of drones and their operational requirements are given below.

Classification of drones

Drones are classified according to their weight, technically this weight is called Maximum Take-Off Weight or MTOW, and on its basis there are 5 categories:
Nano: weighs upto 250 grams
Micro: weighs between 250grams and 2 Kg
Mini: weighs between 2 Kg and 25 Kg
Small: weighs between 25 Kg and 150 Kg
Large: weighs more than 150 Kg.

Where to apply before purchasing a drone

The drones can either be imported or made by Indian entities. For both cases, the applicant has to apply in the prescribed format to the DGCA mentioning the required number of drones, its technical specifications along with the name of the manufacturer, purpose and base of its use to obtain the drones and after receiving the clearance they have to proceed to apply for the Unique Identification Number (UIN) and Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP)

Operating requirements

To operate a drone, two things are required; a) Unique Identification Number (UIN) and b) Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP). Both of these are provided by DGCA upon request.

B>Ownership requirements for issuing UIN
  • The drone has to be owned by a citizen of India, central government or state government. It may also be owned by a company or corporation controlled by central/state government.

  • If the drone is owned by a private company, then the company has to be registered with its original base in India, the chairman and the majority of the board of directors must be Indian citizens and the substantial ownership of that company has to be with Indian nationals.

  • If the drone is owned by a company or corporation registered outside India, then it has to lease the drone to the parties whose original base is in India and follows the above two conditions

  • Documents required for issuing UIN
  • The operator's address proof and valid identity proof with contact details.

  • Details of the area where the drone will be operated along with the purpose of its use.

  • Complete specification of the drone that includes manufacturer's details, model number, manufacturing date, size, weight, range, height etc.

  • Details of the maximum weight the drone can carry along with its compatible payload.

  • Flight manual of the drone.

  • Necessary guidelines of the manufacturer for the drone's maintenance.

  • A permission from DOT (Wireless Planning & Coordination Wing) to use all the necessary frequencies to operate the drone.

  • The necessary security clearance from ministry of home affairs (MHA).

  • Police verification report of the pilots of the drone.

  • The applicant has to submit the above documents along with the application form and requisite fees to Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). After necessary verification, UIN will be issued within two days.

    Documents required for issuing UAOP
  • The necessary permission from the air traffic service (ATS) provider.

  • The land/property owner's permission, where the drone will land and take off.

  • Training records of the remote pilots.

  • The insurance details of the drone, if applicable.

  • Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) approved security program.

  • The above documents along with the duly filled in application and requisite fees have to be submitted to DGCA seven days before the actual operations. The validity of the UAOP is five years from the issuing date and is non-transferable. Additional requirements may be imposed by DGCA on specific cases.

  • If the MTOW of the drone is upto 2 Kg and it flies below 200 ft inside an educational institution, then UIN and UAOP are not required. In that case the local police authorities should be informed and the operator of the drone is solely responsible for its safety, security and operations.

  • UIN and UAOP are not required for drones in Nano categories that intend to fly upto 50 ft in uncontrolled airspace and for indoor operations and those owned by government security agencies. However, before operations the agencies should inform the ATS and local police authorities.

  • UAOP is not required for drones of Micro categories flying below 200ft inside uncontrolled airspace and if not flied in prohibited or restricted areas notified by AAI. But the user must inform the local police authorities and the concerned ATS before such operations.

  • The necessary requirements for the drone operators

    Since drones are controlled from the ground by an operator, known as remote pilot, necessary training conforming to the rules of DGCA is mandatory to conduct the operation.

  • The remote pilot must be of 18 years age or above and should pass the 10th standard exam.

  • The remote pilot must complete the necessary ground training from a DGCA approved flying training organization with a proper theoretical knowledge on Basic Radio Telephony, flight planning, aerodynamics, airspace regulations and restrictions for drones.

  • The remote pilot should undergo a practical training where he has to demonstrate all the safety and control operations in normal and emergency operating conditions.

  • However, to operate Nano and Micro category drones, no specific training is required.

    General operating guidelines for flying a drone

  • The Unique Identification Number (UIN), Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card and the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag must be inscribed on an identification plate made of fire proof material and affixed on the drone. However for Nano categories these are not mandatory.

  • Excepting the operation of Nano categories, all other drone operation must be notified to the local police authority before the operation. The cancellation of their operations is also to be notified immediately to all the concerned authorities.

  • All drone operations must be carried out in daylight only and within the visual line of sight.

  • Drones cannot be operated during rains or thunderstorms. For its operation a clear sky is must.

  • During drone operations, no radio frequency interference should occur with normal flight operations.

  • There must be a demarcated area for landing and take-off of the drone and the area should not be accessed by public.

  • There shall be only one remote pilot at any moment during operating a drone.

  • Drones must be operated in a controlled way so that it cannot cause any harm to the general public or property.

  • Unless it is clearly mentioned in operator's permit (UAOP), drones cannot discharge objects during operation.

  • Explosives or hazardous materials cannot be carried in a drone.

  • Drones cannot be operated in the restricted and prohibited areas mentioned in the DGCA guidelines and all other instructions of operations of the guideline must be followed strictly, otherwise the operators/owners are bound to face penal actions.

  • Conclusion

    The responsibility of proper use, safety and maintenance of the drones lies with the operator and all necessary guidelines must be followed while operating a drone. Whether you are using the drone for recreational purpose or business purpose utmost care has to be taken so that it should not invade into other's territory or harm any individual. The guidelines provided in the article are customary in nature and the detailed operating rules issued by DGCA must be followed during each operation.

    Article by Sankalan Bhattacharya
    Sankalan "Life is easier when you enjoy what you do"

    Follow Sankalan Bhattacharya or read 28 articles authored by Sankalan Bhattacharya


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