Government notifies framework for managing drone traffic in lower airspace

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has notified a drone traffic management framework under which public and private third-party service providers will manage their movement in airspace below 1,000 feet.

Current air traffic management (ATM) systems were not designed to handle unmanned aircraft traffic, says the framework released Oct. 24.

“Integrating unmanned aircraft into Indian airspace using conventional means may require the unmanned aircraft to be outfitted with bulky and expensive hardware, which is neither feasible nor desirable,” a- he noted.

This requires the creation of an automated, modern, mostly software-based UAS (unmanned aircraft system) traffic management system (UTM), he said, adding that these systems could then be integrated into traditional ATM systems.

The integration of UTM and ATM will be important to permanently separate manned and unmanned aircraft in the airspace.

The framework enables third-party service providers to provide services such as logging, flight planning, dynamic resolution, and access to additional data such as weather, terrain, and position of manned aircraft.

Additionally, a set of additional service providers will also be permitted under the framework to provide services such as assurance and data analytics to support the UTM ecosystem.

The DigitalSky platform will continue to be the interface for government stakeholders to provide approvals and authorizations to drone operators, as required, in accordance with the framework.

All drones (except Nano drones operating in the Green Zone) will be required to compulsorily share their real-time position via the network with the Centre, either directly or through third-party service providers, a- he indicated.

He said third-party service providers will first be rolled out in small geographies that could be scaled up gradually.

Additionally, these service providers will be allowed to charge drone operators service fees and a small portion of these might have to be shared with the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which operates the ATM. .

Smit Shah, director of industry body DroneFederation of India, said in a statement: “Traditional traffic management services provided by ATCs (air traffic controllers) for manned aircraft cannot be upgraded. scale to handle drone traffic which is expected to become at least 100 times higher since the traditional ATM is manual and requires human intervention.”

This policy framework will allow third-party service providers to deploy highly automated, algorithm-based software services to manage drone traffic across the country, he added.

On September 15, the Union government had approved a Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) for drones and drone components with an allocation of Rs 120 crore spread over three fiscal years.

The ministry had notified the Drone Rules, 2021 on August 25 which eased regulations for drone operations in India by reducing the number of forms to be completed to operate them from 25 to five and decreasing the types of fees charged to the operator of 72 against four.

The framework was published under the Drone Rules 2021 only.

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