India’s government is taking steps to regularize commercial drone use, as it begins to build and deploy a nationwide unmanned traffic management (UTM) architecture.
India’s current drone regulations, Civil Aviation Regulation (CAR) 1.0, lists very specific software and hardware requirements which most imported drones, including manufacturing leader DJI, do not meet. While some drones manufactured in India do meet the regulations, currently supply does not meet demand. Unofficially, however, estimates indicate more than a half million drones are flying in India: despite the fact that it is illegal to import drones without special approval. While there are rules in place to request exemptions from the regulations, many flights take place without permission.
Despite these challenges, India is widely considered to represent major growth opportunity for the drone industry – and the commercial drone ecosystem is developing rapidly in India. As India’s Civil Aviation Authority works to develop further regulations to help the commercial drone industry fly legally, they are also moving forward to develop a nationwide UTM system. After issuing several solicitations over the last year, the country has selected systems integrator Happiest Minds to build India’s Digital Sky. Happiest Minds will work with multinational UTM company ANRA Technologies as domain specialists on a 3 phase, 21 month project designed to bring a government provided, free system to market.
Phase 1, which should go live in 2020, is registration: allowing operators to submit a flight plan, receive approval, and take off. Phase 2 will include flight tracking and remote ID, Phase 3 includes sophisticated deconfliction capabilities.
In the future, the government intends to open the system to other service providers. This government sponsored Digital Sky framework, however, is a concrete and important step in the process of developing India’s commercial drone industry.