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Drone ban catches students, aerosport buffs on the fly

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Since the veto in 2014, DGCA has remained vague about guidelines for use of UAVs. Academics and enthusiasts are now pushing for regulations rather than prohibition.

It’s been over a year since the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) implemented a blanket ban on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), more commonly known as drones. While the aviation watchdog had stated that it was in the process of formulating regulations for certification and operation of drones in the Indian civil airspace, a response to a recent query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act revealed that this has been put on the backburner for now. The ban, announced on October 7, 2014, stated that with the ‘high density of manned aircraft traffic’ and the ‘uncertainty of the technology’, the use of drones could not be permitted. It also clarified that countries such as USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand allow the use of civil UAVs. In the meantime, engineering students, aeromodelling and aero sport enthusiasts and other drone aficionados have been left in the lurch.

Dr L K Kshirsagar, principal of MIT College of Engineering, felt that there should be strict regulations instead of an outright ban. “We understand that the current leaps in technology and drones being available on market at affordable prices could lead to risky situations. However, I don’t think drones being used at the college level pose any danger. If there were firm rules in place, the authorities could keep a record of drones being used,” he added.  Echoing these views, Dr S D Aagashe, a professor at the instrumentation and control engineering department at College of Engineering Pune (CoEP), said, “Students are now forced to test drones inside the lab which restricts innovations and research. Since there is always the risk of misuse, we should encourage regulations rather than a complete ban. Also, I feel the misuse occurs during private use. If an academic institute is using it, there is always a complete record. Strict regulations should be relaxed for academic exercises.”

Not just academics, the ban has impacted aeromodelling and all aero sports as well. “The situation is demoralising for youngsters, students and anyone interested in drones for recreation. There are students going abroad to do research on drones. There are countries with air traffic far heavier than ours. If they can manage the traffic and permit drones, why can’t we? People should be given licence to pursue their interest till the regulations are framed,” said Pranjal Kulkarni, an avid aero-modeller and president of the Solapur Aero Sports Association. Kulkarni has written to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as all members of Parliament, seeking their intervention as he believes the impasse is killing innovation and enthusiasm.  “Terrorists were using vehicles filled with explosives, mobile phones as trigger devices, boats and many other modes of attack. Why were these not banned? Will we prohibit vehicles or walking on the road because there is the risk of meeting with accidents?” he demanded. Captain Shailesh Charbhe from the Hadapsar Gliding Centre also told Mirror that all aero-sport activities, except gliding, have been banned.

Organisers of musical concerts, film functions and other events also used remote controlled drones to get aerial views for live telecast and photography. After the DGCA restriction, police units across the country have made it compulsory to obtain permission from the local police station if drones are being used. Earlier, Pune police joint commissioner (law and order) Sunil Ramanand had said, “As of now, there is no law regarding drones. Therefore, we have issued a prohibitory order considering people’s safety and other security issues.” DGCA director M Sathiyavathy did not respond to calls or texts. The ban came into being after the Mumbai Police raised security concerns over the use of drones for pizza delivery in May 2014 by Francesco’s Pizzeria.

Students are now forced to test drones inside the lab, which restricts innovations and research. We should encourage regulations rather than a complete ban –  – DR S D AAGASHE, Professor, instrumentation and control engineering dept, CoEPCourtesy


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