Operating drone without valid licence can result in penalty of Rs. 1.5 lakh
By Bapu Lingaraj Urs
Mysore/Mysuru: The increasing popularity and accessibility of drones have brought about numerous benefits, such as improved aerial photography, surveillance, delivery services and research capabilities.
In recent years, the use of drones in urban areas and tourist centres, like Mysuru, has seen significant growth.
However, along with these advantages, there are also concerns and challenges associated with drone usage. Instances of unauthorised drone activities in sensitive areas of Mysuru, housing landmarks like Mysore Palace, Reserve Bank of India’s Note Printing Press, Rare Materials Plant and campuses of vital technology industries like Infosys and L&T, have raised security and privacy concerns.
Despite regulations and restrictions on drone usage, including requirements for registration, operator licencing and adherence to no-fly zones, drones are still being extensively used in the city, often violating privacy norms. The lack of action against these unauthorised drones poses a potential threat to national security.
In a tourist centre like Mysuru, flying drones can cause additional concerns. For example, they can be misused to steal personal information from tourists, such as credit card numbers or passport details. Furthermore, drones might interfere with Police operations or emergency response efforts, posing safety risks.
Invading people’s privacy
Drones can also contribute to noise pollution, disrupt radio signals and invade people’s privacy by capturing images and videos without their consent, particularly in residential areas, public spaces and restricted locations.
Additionally, when in the wrong hands, drones can be used for nefarious purposes, such as smuggling contraband items and conducting illegal surveillance, posing significant security risks to public safety and national security.
India faces specific national security risks, especially when drones are used by hostile entities for terrorist activities across borders. To address this issue, the Indian Government implemented drone regulations in August 2021, defining guidelines for drone operations and restricting their usage in sensitive areas.
Drones weighing above 250 grams require a licence from an authorised private company approved by the Central Government. Drones weighing above 150 kg require a special licence, with only two companies in India, the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) in Chennai and Agni Aero Sports Adventure Academy in Mysuru, having obtained approval for such licences.
To acquire a licence, individuals must register on the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) website and obtain a licence from either Agni Aero Sports Adventure Academy or another approved company in Chennai. Operating a drone without a licence can result in a penalty of Rs. 1.5 lakh.
In February 2022, the DGFT issued a notification banning the import of drones in India, except for R&D, Defence and security purposes. Importing drones for these purposes requires obtaining an import authorisation from the DGFT, which also regulates the import of drone components. However, drones stolen from China continue to enter India through illegal means via Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Despite efforts to regulate drone usage, there have been incidents of illegal drone activities, particularly in Mysuru. For instance, near Chamundi Hill, View Point and Temple premises, some individuals have flown drones dangerously close to structures, endangering public safety. Strict adherence to regulations around sensitive areas remains a challenge.
Training at KRS backwaters
Drones indeed offer numerous benefits, but their misuse is a concern. Our institution not only facilitates the licencing of drones but also provides comprehensive training to individuals involved in drone operations. The Centre has approved the provision of 2,500 drones free of cost for critical operations. To effectively operate these drones, each one requires two skilled operators and 5,000 individuals must be trained. Currently, we are training 1,600 individuals at the backwaters of KRS Dam, a location mandated by the Central Government for this purpose. —Raghavendra, Director of Drone Operations, Agni Aero Sports Adventure Academy