India is one of the most alluring countries on the planet, making it a tempting mecca for drone pilots seeking unique footage.
As drones continue to expand here, the government requires pilots to register a drone and carry a relevant certificate.
How do you register a drone in India?
Register a drone in India through DigitalSky, a DGCA platform. Pilots will receive a Unique Identification Number after registering, which is tied to the manufacturer serial numbers for remote pilot stations and flight control modules.
This guide to drone registration in India will cover all the basics, so you’re ready to register your drone and get out there!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Are drones allowed in India?
According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA, drones can operate in India if pilots follow its aviation regulations and laws.
For instance, all pilots must obtain drone certification before flying in India. These certifications distinguish the type of drone, a requirement in the country since 2021.
A type certificate approves all parts of the drone, from the control station to the engines and propellers for airworthiness and safety.
The DGCA will administer a type certificate after you send them a statement of conformity. The aviation organization works alongside the Quality Control Council of India or QCI for quality standards and control.
Drones that receive a certificate can display a Certification Mark. Some types of drones don’t need a type certification, including Nano-categorized and imported drones.
Once a pilot has obtained their type certification, they must also register a drone before operating it under DGCA laws.
Can I legally fly a drone in India as a non-resident?
However, the above rules only apply to those who already call India home. Non-residents cannot fly drones in India except in very limited circumstances.
Commercial pilots can have a drone leased to an Indian company, which will take care of registering the drone. They will also operate it in lieu of the pilot.
Therefore, while you can technically fly a drone in India commercially, you won’t do any of the operating yourself. You’d have to tell the company the kind of footage you want and hope it’s to your specifications.
Can I bring a drone to India by plane?
You can travel to India by plane with your drone, but you must first contact the Department of Telecommunication. Request an Equipment Type Approval to access the dedicated frequency band WPC Wing.
If you don’t, the airline will confiscate your drone. Worse yet, you could be arrested for trying to smuggle a drone into India.
You must also communicate with the DGCA and obtain import clearance. The only exception to this rule is for drones in the Nano Category.
This seems like a good moment to briefly segue into the drone categories in India. Here’s what you need to know.
- Nano Category: These drones weigh up to 250 grams. You can fly 50 feet over ground level and don’t require a permit unless operating near sensitive facilities and airports.
- Micro Category: A drone is considered Micro if it’s between 250 grams and 2 kilograms. It must fly no more than 200 feet from the ground. Pilots must have a permit for commercial use but not recreational flights.
- Medium Category: Drones classified as Medium are mid-sized and weigh 25 and 150 kilograms.
- Large Category: The final category of drones in India is reserved for the biggest drones. They exceed 150 kilograms.
Getting back to transporting a drone via plane to India, here are some pointers to help.
- Arrive at the airport with plenty of time, as your drone will take longer to get through security checkpoints.
- Purchase a drone storage backpack or bag. This prevents the drone from getting jostled around and potentially damaged. Storing the drone loose in a suitcase is not sufficient enough protection.
- Review the airline’s policy about battery transport. Batteries can pose a safety hazard, as they’re prone to exploding in the pressurized, condensed conditions of a plane. Leave yours at home if you can’t bring them.
- Remove batteries from the drone and store them in a separate area of your bag if you’re permitted to bring them.
- Declare your drone at customs.
» MORE: Can I Bring a Drone to India?
Can I register a drone in India as a non-resident?
Since non-residents cannot fly a drone in India, they cannot register it, either. The only workaround is for commercial pilots comfortable lending a drone to an Indian company. You’ll recall that the company will register the drone on your behalf.
How to register a drone in India (Step by step)
Permitted parties interested in registering a drone in India should follow these steps.
Step 1: Create an account on DigitalSky
DigitalSky is a platform through the DGCA and the Indian government for drone registration, certification, and training.
As you click the link above, you’ll see a series of forms you can apply for labeled D-1 through D-5. The form you need is Form D-2, Unique Identification Number. Select Form D-3 if yours is a Nano or Model drone.
You must have a DigitalSky account to apply for any form. When you click the link for Form D-2, you will see a blue button that reads Login and Apply for UIN.
Clicking that will take you to a login page. You need the signup link on the bottom right of the page, so click it.
Step 2: Log into DigitalSky and fill out your form
After creating your DigitalSky account, log in with your credentials.
If yours is a Nano or Model drone, log into DigitalSky and click the menu option on the dashboard. Pick the Add Exempted Model option.
Add the drone make and model, including pertinent required details. Navigate back to the dashboard and select Add UAS Serial Number, inputting that information.
For non-Nano and Model drones, complete Form D-2.
When filling out a drone registration form on DigitalSky, you need photos of the drone, specifications, certificate information, the name of the company or organization registering your drone, the name of their director, and their business address.
Step 3: Pay the fee
It costs ₹100 to register a drone on DigitalSky, which is approximately $1.20 USD. It’s exceptionally cheap, so there’s no reason not to do it.
Step 4: Wait for application verification
DigitalSky will forward your information to the necessary parties and review its veracity.
Step 5: Receive a UIN
If DigitalSky approves the account request, they’ll issue a Unique Identification Number or UIN.
Once you’ve registered a drone, you can transfer it by completing Form D-3, Transfer of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, as needed.
You can also deregister a drone if it’s damaged beyond repair or lost.
However, you must pay to transfer or deregister your drone at a standard rate of ₹100 per action.
Drone laws in India for commercial and recreational use
Operating a drone in India requires the pilot to follow all DGCA regulations for commercial and recreational use.
Here is an overview of the laws to familiarize yourself with.
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Drones must have the required equipment
Unless operating a drone in the Nano category, a drone must have:
- No Permission No Take or NPNT/SIM
- RF ID
- Flight controller that can log data
- ID plate
- Anti-collision light
- Built-in return-to-home feature
Pilots must follow the No Permission, No Takeoff rules
India has instituted a policy called No Permission, No Takeoff that pilots must be abreast of before launching.
Under this policy, a pilot must use a mobile app to ask for flight permission from DigitalSky. They will receive approval or rejection in the interim.
If DigitalSky rejects the pilot, they won’t be able to use their drone.
Drones must have permission to enter controlled airspace
A drone operating in controlled airspace must request a Flight Information Center or FIC number and an Air Defense Clearance or ADC number.
Do not operate in no-fly zones
India has many designated no-fly zones where drones are strictly prohibited.
They include military installations, state capital State Secretariat Complexes, Delhi’s Vijay Chowk, international borders, and around airports.
Do not fly above the vertical limit
The vertical limit for drone flight in India varies depending on your drone classification. The max limit is 400 feet from the ground.
Keep a visual line of sight on the drone
Like many parts of the world, India requires pilots to fly their drones where they can see them. This prevents mishaps where the drone causes property damage or injuries to passersby.
One’s vertical line of sight can be augmented with glasses or contacts but not binoculars.
Always carry the relevant permit
Drone pilots beyond those in the Nano and Micro categories must have a permit.
What happens if I break drone laws in India?
The DGCA establishes drone laws for the safety of pilots and civilians. Violating those laws, whether accidentally or willingly, results in substantial fines.
The fee for ignoring the No Permission, No Takeoff rules is ₹50,000. If you forego a license and operate a drone, you could face stiff fines of ₹25,000.
Those are fines of several hundred dollars USD.
A fine would be the least of your troubles. Violating India’s drone transportation or usage rules can also result in arrest.
How to check for restricted areas in India
Are you seeking a map showing restricted airspace? Look no further than DigitalSky.
Here is a link to the map. You can visualize the map of India by state, airports within 5 to 12 kilometers, the international boundary within 25 kilometers, temporarily restricted areas, and no-fly zones.
Within a few moments of glimpsing at the map, you can clearly see where you’re allowed to use a drone in India versus where you cannot.
You can also search for specific parts of the country using this handy map.
DigitalSky updates the drone map frequently as changes occur in real-time. The organization recommends checking the map before every drone flight.
Do I need insurance to fly a drone in India?
The DGCA, under Rule 44, requires all drones exceeding 250 grams to register for third-party drone insurance. This rule has been in place since 2021.
Third-party liability insurance protects your drone if it causes an accident or injury or if the drone withstands damage. The lower premium makes this option affordable for more pilots.
You can always add comprehensive drone insurance. This optional insurance has much wider coverage, expanding protections to you and others.
With more features comes a higher premium, but the peace of mind you’ll have knowing you’re safe in the skies is priceless.