Offbeat Tourism

Civilian drones may account for bulk of 40,000 UAVs in Indian skies

MUMBAI: Only defence forces, law-enforcement agencies and a few select government companies are allowed to use drones, but that is not stopping civilian ‘droners’ from hitting the skies.

Over the past two years, Indians have spent close to Rs 40 crore buying civil drones, as per estimates of the Consortium of Unmanned Vehicle Systems India (CUVSI), reports The Economic Times.

Civil drones, which also include toy drones, bear price tags in the range of Rs 2,000 and Rs 50,000; a rough calculation hints at the presence of 40,000 drones in Indian skies.

“Commercial sales could have easily crossed Rs 100 crore by now,” reckons Pritam Sahu, cofounder of Edall Systems, a Bengaluru-based drone maker.

“Civil drones, which are smaller in size and possess lower flight altitude and payload-carrying capabilities, are attracting a lot of interest from buyers. These are mostly used for hobby-flying or aerial photography,” Sahu adds.

As per directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) rules, it is illegal to employ drones for civilian purposes as these unmanned flying machines pose serious threat to national security.

“Civilian use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is not permitted in India,” clarifies Huzefa Tavawalla, who heads international commercial law practice at Nishith Desai Associates, a prominent law firm.

“The DGCA has banned use of civilian drones, but its sale, per se, is not banned… So you’ll be able to buy drones, but you’re not legally allowed to fly them,” he adds.

Drones are used by PSUs such as NTPC, ONGC, railways, mapping & surveying agencies and warehousing companies. World over, drones are used by telecom service providers, mining firms, transport operators and large agriculture & food processing companies.

Pilgrimage centres such as Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams use drones as part of their security detail. Police departments across India have started using drones for surveillance at crowded places – a noteworthy mention being use of UAVs at Kumbh Mela ghats.

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