In what could be the first step towards allowing beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has notified a traffic management framework for drones, under which public and private third-party service providers will manage the traffic movement in the airspace under 1,000 feet.
In detailing the need for having an automated UAS (unmanned aircraft system) Traffic Management (UTM) system, the Ministry said: “… India has started taking steps towards enabling advanced use cases like delivery of goods using unmanned aircraft and is also looking at human transportation using unmanned aircraft”.
This requires the creation of a separate, modern, primarily software-based, automated UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system, it said, adding such systems may subsequently be integrated into traditional ATM systems.
The framework allows third-party service providers to give services such as registration, flight planning, dynamic deconfliction and access to supplementary data like weather, terrain and position of manned aircraft. Also, a set of supplementary service providers will also be permitted under the framework to provide services such as insurance and data analytics.
DigitalSky platform shall continue to be the interface for government stakeholders to provide approvals and permissions to drone operators. All drones (except nano drones operating in the green zone) shall be required to share their real-time location through the network to the Centre.
It said the third-party providers will first be deployed in small geographical areas that could be increased gradually. They will be permitted to charge drone operators a service fee and a small portion of it might have to be shared with the Airports Authority of India. Drone Federation of India Director Smit Shah said: “Traditional traffic management services provided by ATCs (air traffic controllers) for manned aircraft cannot be scaled for managing drone traffic which is expected to become at least 100 times higher since the traditional ATM is manual and requires human intervention.”