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Can You Bring a Drone to India?

There are still a lot of debates ongoing regarding the topic “can you bring a drone to India?”

You can’t blame people for constantly debating this topic, but blame the Indian government that continually makes adjustments to its drone operation rules. So, we’ve done thorough research to clarify your doubts and answer all your questions about bringing a drone to India.

Drone operations in India are no longer banned; there’s a new policy. The revised drone policy issued on the 26th of August, 2021 by India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) stated that drone operations are allowed in India provided that:

  • The operator is registered
  • The operator has permission to fly and is ready to adhere to the rules of flight by MoCA.

Unfortunately, foreigners are still prohibited from flying drones in India.

If you’re a foreigner who would like to operate a drone in India for commercial purposes, you can lease it to an Indian company, which can then register and operate the drone on your behalf.

You are permitted to carry a drone with you into India on a plane, provided that you have prior permission from the Department of Telecommunication to operate in a dedicated frequency band (WPC Wing). A drone without this authorization will be confiscated and returned.

Drone operations in India are guided by strict laws that must be adhered to. So you must learn more about these laws to avoid being fined or penalized.

These rules are sometimes based on the classification of the unmanned aircraft system.

Let’s dive in.

Unmanned aircraft system classifications

The rules guiding drone operations in India usually follow these classifications. The classification is based on the weight of the aircraft. See the categories below:

  • Nano unmanned aircraft system – An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) weighing 250 grams or less. You don’t need a permit to fly this aircraft system except if you fly near airports or sensitive facilities. The highest height you can fly is 50ft above ground level.
  • Micro unmanned aircraft system – A UAS system that weighs 250 grams to 2 kilograms. You must have a permit except for non-commercial usage. Also, ensure you don’t fly more than 200ft above ground level.
  • Small unmanned aircraft system – A UAS system that weighs between 2 kilograms and 25 kilograms.
  • Medium unmanned aircraft system – This UAS weighs between 25 and 150 kilograms.
  • Large unmanned aircraft system – They weigh over 150 kilograms.

Registration is required for all the UAS categories highlighted above except for the Nano UAS category.

Can you bring a drone to India?

Drones are now allowed in India but are subjected to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) regulations. Also, no drones can be operated except if registered on the Digital Sky Platform and if they have a Unique Identification Number.

In addition, it is not allowed to operate a drone without a remote pilot certificate except when flying a small unmanned aircraft system.

If you are a foreigner, you should forget about operating a drone in India because it is prohibited. However, you can lease a drone to a company in India for commercial purposes only.

» MORE: Can You Bring a Drone to Qatar?

Traveling with a drone through customs

Before the importation, you must obtain an Equipment Type Approval (ETA) from the Department of Telecommunication for operating in a dedicated frequency band (WPC Wing). After that, you apply for DGCA for import clearance, except if you fall in the Nano Category.

If you don’t follow this process, you might be arrested and tagged as an importer or smuggler. This is because the importation of drones is banned in India.

When bringing the Nano drone on a plane, ensure you take it out of the box and remove the batteries. The batteries can be kept in cabin luggage, while other parts can be kept in the check-in or cabin luggage.

For micro, small and medium drones, remove the batteries and keep them in the cabin luggage and the other parts in the check-in luggage. Also, ensure that you inform your airline carrier beforehand.

Spare batteries with less than 100 Watt-hours or up to 160 Watt-hours can be kept in the cabin luggage, while the batteries with over 160 Watt-hours should be shipped as cargo.

General rules for flying a drone in India

These are the rules laid down by the DGCA for drone operators in India;

  • Ensure you comply with Digital Sky’s “No permission, No take-off” rule, except if you operate a Nano unmanned aircraft system.
  • Attach the Unique Identification Number you obtain from the Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGCA) to your drone.
  • Obtain an Unmanned Aircraft Permit from DGCA. Also, obtain a permit from the Digital Sky Platform for each flight you take.
  • Avoid flying a drone near aircraft (manned and unmanned). The same applies to airports and helicopters, except if you fill out a flight plan 24 hours before the operation.
  • Don’t fly a drone in a group of people or at public events. This is to avoid disturbance or causing inconvenience.
  • Avoid no-drone zones like military bases and government facilities. Flying toward those areas will get you penalized.
  • Seek owner permission before flying over private property. Flying a drone over personal property is inappropriate unless you’re given permission to do so.
  • Avoid flying drones from a moving vehicle or aircraft. This is to ensure a safe flight.
  • Avoid flying drones that are in poor condition. Drones in poor condition can cause accidents.
  • Ensure you fly a drone in daylight and watch out for the weather conditions.
  • Avoid flying drones outside of your visual line of sight.

Risk of flying a drone illegally in India

Breaking any of the rules above can attract huge fines. For instance, flying a drone without a license earns you a fine of up to Rs 25,000. You’ll pay INR 50,000 for flying over the “No permission, No take-off’ zones.

Aside from paying fines, you might be arrested, not to mention embarrassed. To avoid a scenario like this, ensure you comply with the drone operation rules.