The state of the Indian drone industry is a complicated one, given the harsh restrictions imposed upon UAS in the country. In October of 2014, the Director General of Civil Aviation in India issued a public notice (http://dgca.nic.in/public_notice/PN_UAS.pdf) that regulated Indian UAS use for the first time. The notice is clear: ‘Til such (future) regulations are issued, no individual no non-government agency, organization, or an individual will launch a UAS in Indian Civil Airspace for any purpose whatsoever.’
Despite the fairly obvious warning to any potential UAS user who’s not government-affiliated, there are no laws against the sale of drones in India-and the market for them is growing rapidly. Civil drones alone are estimated to have made over a billion Rupees in sales (roughly equivalent to fifteen million US Dollars), and the UAS market’s worth in India is expected to rise to $421 million by 2021.
The military market makes up the bulk of India’s drone expenditure, however. India imports more military drones than any other country, making up 22.5% of global UAS imports. A recent defence deal with Israel for the purchase of ten Heron drones shows that the interest in UAS from the Indian government is still very much alive.
There are undeniable uses for UAS in India. Agricultural mapping and monitoring, for example, are difficult in the often quite rough terrain of the country, and with the use of drones, crops can be sprayed, counted, and generally monitored with ease. Surveying power lines, pipelines, and construction sites are also greatly simplified with the use of drones.
The restrictions on civilian use of UAS are likely to change, however. A committee was recently set up by the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry in May, to ‘finalise the regulations on UAS’. It seems likely that in the face of a rapidly-growing industry, India will finally issue less strict guidelines for UAS use, and in doing so open the door for freer civil drone usage.