On December 1, 2018, flying drones in India became legal. The rules and regulations were laid out. A web portal was built for that matter, called Digital Sky. There still exist many factors which prohibit drone flight in India. For instance, we discussed how the NPNT policy, the very basis of legal drone flight in India, is still a great challenge for many drone manufacturers.
Apart from the NPNT compliance issue, there are many major elements which have not yet been put in place by the authorities or are moving at a slow pace. Certification labs are one of the major elements which are absent entirely. Before we break down how their absence is affecting drone development in the country, it is crucial to understand what they are.
What are Certification Labs?
As discussed, NPNT (No Permission-No Take-off) policy is a substantial element for drones to fly in India. The drone manufacturers are supposed to provide consumers with an NPNT compliance certificate for a particular model of a drone. Here is where the Certification Labs step in. Certification Labs are government-appointed quality check centers for drones. Only upon getting clearance from the Certification Labs, will a manufacturer be able to get the NPNT Certificate of Compliance from DGCA. After getting the CoC from DGCA for a particular model, the manufacturer can proceed further for its import or sale.
Absence of Certification Labs
Currently, DGCA has impaneled QCI (Quality Council of India) for finding a Certification Lab. While the NPNT issue is still undealt with by drone manufacturers, absence of quality check centers have created another roadblock. Thus, with no active lab in the country, the process of even obtaining a drone would take a tediously long time.
DGCA approved FTOs
One primary requirement to fly a drone is a Remote Pilot’s Licence. In recent developments, the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) has listed several authorized Flight Training Organizations (FTO). These centers will provide adequate ground/practical training for operating a drone. However, the Remote Pilot must meet the age and educational criterias among many others, to participate in the drone training course. Pilots must ensure that the training center has a curriculum approved by the DGCA. This includes theory subjects like Basic RT, aerodynamics, flight planning, aviation meteorology, and many more. For detailed information, you can refer to DGCA’s RPAS Guidance Manual.
Challenges faced by Drone Manufacturers
Major drone manufacturers, such as DJI, Parrot, etc. have not yet stepped in to manufacture specially programmed drones which would be NPNT compliant. Although they are working and looking forward to achieving this, it is still an ongoing process. Drone companies would have to organize a special line-up of NPNT compliant drones and then launch them in India along with their certification.
Drone laws in other countries do not require such kind of policy. As a result, there have been catastrophic drone accidents and mishaps globally. This is one of the main reasons why the Indian government has stressed on drones being NPNT compliant. This has kickstarted a race among the manufacturers to become compliant at the earliest. India’s drone market is expected to grow to a billion dollars in the coming decade. That is why it has become essential for major drone companies to relaunch NPNT compliant drones.
Owing to the missing labs and compliance issues, drones of companies like DJI, Parrot, etc. cannot be imported to India. However, that might change in the near future. With rapid technological advancements and demand for UAVs in all industries, it is likely that legal drones could fly in a few months from now.