Drone flying laws: Sky is the limit for drone-tech start-ups

By: | Published: September 20, 2018 1:49 AM

Start-ups such as HuviAir and Skylark Drones see more clients lining up to use drones to collect data once the DGCA norms come into effect.

According to Bengaluru-based HuviAir and Skylark Drones, two companies which have been pioneering the use of drones in India and are working with various state and international governments.

The drone regulations and policies announced by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) last month have received a big thumbs-up from drone service providers. According to Bengaluru-based HuviAir and Skylark Drones, two companies which have been pioneering the use of drones in India and are working with various state and international governments, these regulations which will come into effect on December 1, 2018 will help in the development of drone technology and expand the use of drone services in various sectors.

“Drone technology finds important applications in Photogrammetry and surveying, across sectors. Photogrammetry is the science of getting three dimensional images of surfaces using pictures shot with drones. The infrastructure sector will be one of the important sectors that will benefit from the new regulations,” explains Vikshut Mundkur, co-founder and CEO of HuviAir, talking about the benefits of drones. HuviAir has worked with waste management NGOs, constructions companies and also with the Republic of Somaliland and drones have been helpful in precisely monitoring waste dumping, finding deviation, surveying and allotting addresses and street names. Mundkur says that with the regulations now in place, apprehensions on whether it is legal to use drones and gather data will be alleviated and more people will start adopting drone tech.

The services use all types of drones as classified by DGCA – from nano drones which can also be used for recreation and does not require an operator license to industry-specific large drones which require an operator’s licence. “Most of our projects use drones in nano and micro category but with the regulations in, we specifically know where to use large drones and how to obtain licences for that,” says Gokul Kumaravel, spokesperson, Skylark Drones.

With the guidelines announced, DGCA has also created a digital platform for drone operators to register their drones, get operator licence and get flight plans approved. The platform is called Digital Sky Platform. HuviAir and Skylark have training courses for operators and say it will be easier for them now to train students as the regulations specify the subjects in which an operator must be trained. “Flying drones will be a career option now for many people. When more businesses come up, the demand for drone engineers, data engineers and computer vision engineers will also grow. Our drones gather a lot of data. We work with the government of Karnataka and the highways department on road projects. It’s the software platform that we develop which gives a sense of the data we collect from these sites and tells the contractors about the progress at each site,” explains Kumaravel.

When the norms come into effect, it will be necessary for operators to register each of their drones and get a Unique Identification Number (UIN) through the Digital Sky Platform. This will help in identifying rogue drones and operators’ intentions. The norms also specify coordinates for controlled and uncontrolled zones. “It is essential to have flying zones marked out. Sometimes we came across places where we weren’t sure if we could fly our drones. Now, it will be clear and we may even re-gain customers who dropped out of projects with us due to the skepticism and uncertainty of flying zones,” says Mundkur, who is optimistic of growing his business, especially after winning Boeing’s accelerator programme while the norms were in the making.

A few drone-tech startups, however, have reservations about the weight and altitude specifications set by DGCA. They say these specifications will not bring out the full efficiency of drones and will restrict their usage. However, players like HuviAir and Skylark Drones expect DGCA to have these norms constantly updated. Mundkur and Kumaravel believe that there will be a version 2.0 of the policies as the industry evolves.

-Srinath Srinivasan

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