Regulation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in India – An Inevitable Need: Abhishek & Renuka

REGULATION OF UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES IN INDIA: AN INEVITABLE NEED

Author: Avishek Mehrotra

Co-Author: Renuka Mishra

Symbiosis Law School, Pune

ISSN: 2582-3655

ABSTRACT

Technological advancement has moved with a brisk pace. It goes unsaid that the legal framework also has to develop speedily keeping pace with the developments in technology. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence, the legislature has been tasked with making resounding changes to the existing framework as well as developing novel ones. One of the products of technological development has been Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The present paper concentrates on the large-scale use of UAVs which have been put to multifarious uses and their increased influence on several activities due to Covid-19. The authors during the course of this paper refer to the regulations governing the use of UAVs in India, highlighting the insufficiencies in it due to the short-sightedness on part of the law-making authorities. The authors put forth various arenas which the draft regulations have overlooked or failed to cover, the anomalies in the present framework, and the misuses that perpetuate due to the cumulative effect of the two. Thereafter the authors suggest a feasible set of suggestions the implementation of which along with any other which the framers may deem fit might be efficacious in filling the missing blocks. The authors end on a cautionary note specifying that any regulations that must be formulated should be keeping sight of the beneficial effects UAVs and possible future advancements while balancing them against the threats to civil liberties. 

INTRODUCTION

Law and Technology form two distinct areas of study however, they lead to a vast area of overlapping and intermingled development. Both the sciences require adequate acknowledgment to be given to the other field as any change in one will also impact the other. There have been considerable developments in the field of technology, for the betterment of human life and the same is also in progress by continuing efforts to develop things like self -driven cars, cloud computing, and so on. One outcome of such innovations in the field of technology is the invention of “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” (‘UAV’) commonly known as drones. 

In simple terms, a drone means, a vehicle capable of operating on multiple surfaces without having a human being on board to control the same. There are wide varieties of drones available depending upon their use, size, weight, etc.[1]The International Civil Aviation Organization has termed them as Remote Piloted Aircraft System (‘RPAS’) owing to their trait of being a remotely-piloted aircraft.[2] Their invention has shown its influence on commercial domains, law enforcement activities by the government and has also extended to impact military activities of the nations. The unprecedented times like that of COVID-19 has seen the widespread use of drones for patrolling and facilitation of other activities of health workers. Along with the above-mentioned activities, the use of drones for delivering articles has led to numerous concerns pertaining to the security and privacy of the citizens. 

The primary focus of the authors in the present paper is to highlight the concerns of the end-users due to the use of UAVs. Albeit there are certain confidentiality concerns put forth by the operators but they are outside the ambit of this paper. The authors in the present article have strived to analyze the various uses of UAVs and the existing legal regime surmounting the same. The article also includes how COVID-19 has led to increased use of these machines. The authors then discuss the various concerns that arise due to their increasing usage and have attempted to provide certain recommendations to guide the way ahead.

HISTORY OF DRONES

The usage of drones can be traced back to the period of the First World War as that was the time when pilotless vehicles were put to use. It was at a very crude stage of development and work on it continued even after the end of the War. The United States started using these drones for training purposes.[3]The first time India used drones was during the 1999 Kargil War. The use of manned aircraft like English Canberra PR57 proved to be unsuccessful in the Kargil terrain and thus, they were replaced by IAI Heron and Searcher drones. Since then India has purchased numerous drones from Israel and has taken initiatives to produce its UAVs.[4] Owing to their lightweight, cheap cost of transportation and wider reach, UAVs are put to multiple uses like surveillance which shall be discussed in detail in due course.

MULTIPLE APPLICATIONS OF THE UAVS

The structure, ease, and cost-efficient transportability of drones have led to their applications in several activities, which were previously not possible due to extreme weather conditions, uneven terrains, etc. Some of these uses have been discussed below:

  • Agricultural purposes: UAVs are being used increasingly for agricultural purposes. They are deployed to spray pesticides, check the quality of the soil, and growth of crops. Drones have been actively used in Japan to boost the production of rice.[5]India, with the advent of the Green Revolution, has deployed UAVs to increase the production of rice, especially in the north-eastern belt. 
  • Forest & Wildlife Management: Excessively dense and hostile forests and difficult terrains make human intervention extremely difficult. UAVs are used to study such landscapes in a time and cost-effective manner.[6] They help to monitor various activities like poaching and tracking of wildlife population. They help to record videos and click pictures from the interiors of forests along with sharing them on a real-time basis. Their capability function even during the night helps to spot animals that are rare and do not roam around during the day times, like red pandas and snow leopards.[7] They are also used to prevent forest fires which cause massive destruction and harm to the environment. 
  • Monitoring of Earth Sciences: UAVs when integrated with satellite systems can support 3-D mapping and collection of accurate data for conducting surveys and other studies. It also facilitates the tracking of various natural hazards like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, pollution in the troposphere, fire emissions, spread of vegetation, glaciers, the formation of canopies, meteorology amongst others.[8]  
  • Maintenance of Law and Order: UAVs installed with high-definition cameras and sensors are used to monitor sensitive areas States like Uttar Pradesh also deploy UAVs to monitor large public gatherings like that of Ramadan and Kumbh Mela wherein lakhs of people gather every day.[9]  These surveillance capabilities are also used in sensitive places like State and National borders, areas containing pipelines of oil and natural gas supply, and other off-shore areas.
  • Coverage for Media and News: UAVs are being used extensively by various media agencies to cover events of public interest like large political rallies and other events which were previously not possible. Cinematographers use UAVs to capture panoramic images that awestruck the viewers.[10] They also help media channels to report war scenes and other dangerous zones that were previously beyond their reach.
  • Conduction of developmental activities: Indian railways has used UAVs to monitor its mega-projects. GAIL, which forms the largest processor of Natural Gas, has rigorously used drones to monitor pipelines. The National Highways Authority of India also used UAVs for 3-D mapping of the Highway of Allahabad and other road widening projects. They have been deployed to facilitate compensation in property disputes leading to an accurate and expedite process. They have further facilitated the health industry by quick transfer of donated organs and catering to urgent requirements of blood samples. Furthermore, e-commerce sites like Amazon have resorted to drone-delivery.[11]

INCREASED USAGE DUE TO COVID 19

With the ongoing pandemic, there has been discovered an ardent need to switch to a ‘cobotic response’ i.e. a system of cooperation between humans and robots. This has been especially seen in the increased deployment of UAVs for several purposes. Given the manner of spreading of the disease, a shift to some ‘non-contact’ mode of discharging tasks is the need of the hour. This objective has been facilitated by the use of UAVs for performing several tasks conventionally requiring man force. Deployment of UAVs on the field has been a welcome and moreover an unavoidable step, they have been instrumental and acted as frontline warriors in the ongoing fight against the pandemic. This can be attributed to the various advantages which favour their use namely – no human contact; speedier and secure; and a cost-effective alternative; The Government, realizing this potential, had launched the GARUD portal for government authorization. Further, the public order[12] exempts the government agencies, undertaking pandemic related activities, from complying with certain requisites applicable to RPAS.[13]UAVs presently has been put to several uses in India[14] as well as around the world, which is performed by humans might pose a threat of contracting disease not only to them but also those coming in contact.

  • USED FOR SANITISATION: In the absence of any vaccine presently available, the only effective way of keeping secure is through maintaining clean and hygienic surroundings. This calls for sanitization of all areas, be it closely packed urban areas or remote villages. Usage of UAVs helps in sanitizing greater areas in shorter spans. For instance, in Telangana alone, 1900 km were disinfected with 9800 liters of chemicals.
  • SURVEILLANCE: They are being used for surveillance and spreading awareness among the general public. This has ensured effective implementation of the lockdown by preventing any violation even in areas where the enforcement agencies could not be deployed.
  • DELIVERY & THERMAL ANALYSIS: The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted the need to avoid human contact. Thus UAVs with weather-resistant boxes are being used for the delivery of essential goods and medicines as well as thermal scanning of the potentially infected persons. Their use for the delivery of essential medical equipment such as masks, sanitizers, and PPE kits can in a shorter span of time protect numerous lives. Besides the state, they are being also used for the delivery of non-essential goods by private individuals. 

Besides the advantages of using UAV amidst the present situation, they can also provide an imperative response in emergency situations. They could become the new normal by providing access to several places inaccessible by humans, used for quick and effective implementation of several activities, etc. Despite opening a gateway to several new opportunities, why is the use of drones in various sectors, especially involving private players, not feasible in India? It is greatly attributable to the privacy and security concerns which they might pose. This issue can only be addressed by rethinking and reformulating the existing framework governing UAVs in India.

PRESENT LEGAL FRAMEWORK GOVERNING UAVs

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (hereinafter referred to as DGCA) by a public notice in the year 2014 imposed a blanket ban on the usage of UAVs for civil purposes owing to the threat posed by it to National Security.[15] Further, the import of UAVs was also restricted leading to the restricted use of this technology’s potential. This was followed by the DGCA acknowledging in the year 2016 that a blanket ban on the civil use of UAVs is not justified and it also hampers the path of development.[16] This notification was followed by draft regulations of 2018 containing the further plan of action for the usage of drone technology in India. It took into consideration the concerns arising out of a licensing regime. It also proposes a platform “Digital Sky” which facilitates the easy allotment of Unique Identification Numbers and other permits,which are a prerequisite for most Remotely Piloted Aircraft (hereinafter referred to as RPA).On registration, the operators are provided with a map that clearly demarcates fly and no-fly zones.[17]

A special Task Force under the chairmanship of Hon’ble Minister of State for Civil Aviation to scrutinize the existing regime and further potential uses of this technology was formed. Their recommendations led to the release of the Drone ecosystem policy Roadmap in the year 2019.[18] It pertained to issues like autonomous operations of drones along with regulating the use in beyond visual line of sight operations.  It was followed by the release of National Counter Rogue Drone guidelines to address numerous legal and security issues that were construed by the use of drones in an unbridled manner.[19] These guidelines further included measures to prevent threats by drones, a ready reckoner for anti-drone measures along with multi-dimensional threats posed by the same. 

Drone Categories in India

  • Nano: less than or equal to 250gms
  • Micro: 250gms-2kgs
  • Small: 2kgs-25kgs
  • Medium: 25 kgs- 150 kgs
  • Large: greater than150kgs

Certain guidelines for use of UAVs are as follows:

  • All machines except those falling in the nano-category must be registered and have been issued a unique identification number.
  • In order to use a UAV for commercial purposes, it should necessarily be given a permit by the concerned authorities unless belonging to the two exempted categories, firstly, the nano-category that flew below 50 ft, and secondly, micro-category flown below 200 ft.
  • UAVs must be flown in the direct visual line of sight at all times within a vertical height of 400 ft.
  • No UAVs should be flown over “No Fly Zones” which include areas near airports, international borders, and other such notified areas. 
  • In order to fly a UAV in controlled areas, one is required to acquire prior permission along with an Air Defence Clearance Number.
  • A drone (except those belonging to nano-category) should mandatorily have the following, in order to be entitled to fly in India:  GPS, RTH, Anti-Collision Light, ID plate, No Permission No Takeoff along with a flight controller.
  • All drone operators are required to take permission prior to every flight through the Digital Sky platform, without which the machine will not be able to take-off.[20]

Though there are multiple regulations to regulate the use of UAVs, multiple drones are being operated without complying with them. The MoCA on June 9, 2020, gave a one-time opportunity to users of unregulated, non-compliant machines to disclose the same.[21] Failure to follow the guidelines can lead to the suspension of such machines. The Indian Penal Code[22] also provides for penalties for instances of the breach, namely Section 287[23] (negligent conduct wrt machinery), Section 336[24] (act endangering life or personal safety of others), Section 337[25] (causing hurt by endangering life or personal safety of others), Section 338[26] (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) amongst other relevant provisions from the Code. Actions can also be taken against the wrong-doer under Section 11 of the Aircraft Act, 1934, and Sec 161 of the Aircraft rules, 1937.[27]

WHY ARE THE PRESENT LAWS INSUFFICIENT? 

Due to the far-reaching uses of UAVs, India decided to allow its usage subject to regulations. The regulations were welcomed by most owing to the opportunities which the use of UAVs could open. These policies were drafted with certain restrictions keeping in view the safety and security issues that may perpetuate with the use of UAVs, the regulations have imposed several application and approval requirements. However, on perusal of the regulations, there are certain concerns that remain unaddressed under the present regulatory framework. Besides the non-inclusion or consideration of some important aspects, the existent regulations have their shortcomings. Both these factors have led to several misuses of UAVs, causing serious privacy and security concerns.

  1. DOES NOT COVER SEVERAL IMPORTANT ASPECTS 

The guidelines issued by the DGCA, fall short in addressing several vital issues which must have been taken into account. The guidelines also appear to lack the foresight, as it fails to take into account the brisk pace at which the UAV technology is developing through Artificial Intelligence. The primary objective with which the guidelines appear to be built is to ensure the unhindered movement of commercial aircraft alongside the UAVs instead of focussing on any robust framework to regulate the operations of drones. The rules do not pay heed to accidents between the drones, thereby ignoring the loss to life and property that might be caused due to the collision of two UAVs. In addition to this, there are various aspects that have not drawn the attention of the framers, which are essential for efficacious and threat free use of drones in India.

I.  STANDARDIZATION OF IMPORTS

A large number of UAVs in India continue to be imported. Given the situation, there is a need to ensure its quality and standard. With the lack of any legislation in this regard, the airworthiness of the UAVs cannot be trusted. This is not only the case with the imported ones but also those domestically manufactured, as by failing to lay down any standards, DGCA has left the industry to its own standards. Due to this, there is also an increased chance of malfunctioning of the devices, resulting in accidents thereby causing damage to life and property. Furthermore, with no standard requisites, it is almost impossible to test their digital security, making them more vulnerable to hacking. Adding to the existing anomalies is the question of legal liability in case of an accident or security infringement. How will it be ascertained if there was improper handling of the device or it has malfunctioned in the absence of any specific standards? 

II. UNIFORM MANAGEMENT OF INCIDENTS

No guidelines have been issued on the methodology to be followed in case of an incident. This has resulted in non-uniform actions by the police and sparked uncertainty on the course to be followed. For instance, in 2015, a UAV was spotted flying nearby Rashtrpati Bahwan, however, the police officials launched an uncoordinated and ineffective response to the situation. As a result of this, the perpetrator escaped and was never to be found.[28] Subsequent to this incident, the Delhi police demarcated certain areas as no-fly zones, ordering the officials to shoot down any UAVs spotted in such areas.[29] In another incident, UAVs were spotted flying over the city of Bhopal with Hanuman idols. There was reportedly no action from the police in such a sensitive incident. Post this, the Madhya Pradesh police had urged DGCA to formulate guidelines on the course of action to be followed, but to no avail.[30] This highlights the evident lack of coordination amongst the authorities and the ardent need for such regulations to clear the ambiguity amongst the police officials and ensure uniformity in their action.

III. THE UNANSWERED PRIVACY CONCERNS

The Indian Supreme Court has recognized the right to privacy as a fundamental right enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.[31] DGCA in its guidelines has effectively looked over the privacy concerns attached to the use of UAVs. It has considered such an intrinsic issue to be worthy of only one line in the entire regulations: “The remote pilot shall be liable to ensure that privacy norms of any entity are not compromised in any manner.” There is no clarity regarding the term ‘privacy norms’ as there are no specific privacy norms that the regulations mention or refer to.  It is also well settled that when it comes to national security, the latter prevails over the former.[32] The drones operating with cameras also give rise to the unending debate of privacy versus security. However, in situations where the privacy of an individual is compromised by non-governmental agencies, it definitely becomes a serious concern. 

The use of UAVs creates instances of both intended and unintended privacy infringements that need to be addressed. In the present time, contravention of privacy is viewed from a narrow perspective of only visual infringement. With the advent of UAVs, a broader view needs to be taken as they can cause privacy incursion in diverse ways. It can record an in-camera conversation at a normal sound level, can be used for block wireless communication, very small UAVs can be used to hear private conversations. Parliaments of various Nations such as the USA and Australia have considered the issue of safeguarding privacy while allowing drones to operate freely. Presently, the issue of privacy in India is regulated through certain provisions of the IT Act, 2000, and Article 21 of the Constitution. However, they are not sufficient to cover privacy infringements through UAVs in the absence of any parameters of privacy related to UAVs.

Besides the threat which the use of drones by private individuals or entities poses to privacy, another important aspect is the regulation of their use by enforcement and other governmental agencies. This is essential to curb the incursion of privacy by the use of drones to the minimum, which would also propel the law agencies to encourage respect to privacy while using such technology. Albeit national security indeed supersedes the privacy of an individual but this should also be done in view of the proportionality test.[33] One may also take note of the concept of ‘reasonable’ breach of privacy as seen in the US. It is based upon the extent to which surveillance needs to be exercised for maintaining security. It is based upon how the data collected through UAVs is processed or examined by the Government agencies. 

IV. AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT

The rapid pace at which the use of UAVs is growing, it is manifest that there would soon be an enormous number of them occupying the air-space of the country. This density would make them vulnerable to accidents which might even cause damage to life or property. Thus, air traffic management of UAVs is an indispensable aspect that requires regulations. The predicament however lies in the fact that they are neither easily trackable nor are they easy to communicate with as opposed to conventional aircraft. There have been several instances in which collision between an aircraft and UAV has been closely avoided. In November 2015, a UAV was spotted flying extremely close to the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI), which remained undetected by the radars.[34] In the UK, there have reportedly been 56 near-miss incidents of a collision between an aircraft and UAV in 2016 alone. The frequency of these incidents raises an urgent need for framing regulations and updating our present air traffic system when it comes to UAVs. 

With their growing density in the Indian airspace, there is undoubtedly an urgent need to develop a collision-avoidance system for UAVs.[35] This system is capable of avoiding collisions by sensing and avoiding any obstacle in its path and thereby changing its course. This technology is already in place, but it is only aimed at avoiding collision between UAVs with aircraft, it must be enhanced to cover and avoid collision between two UAVs.

V. LACK OF CLARITY ON TRESPASS

Trespass to property is said to be constituted when there is an infringement to the right of exclusive possession of one person by another having no right or authority over it.[36] It also includes intrusion of airspace, which hinders the reasonable enjoyment of the property. Consider a scenario where a drone passes over private property – would it be covered under the ambit of trespass to property? If so, then under what circumstances can the citizen attribute trespass to his property through drone operations? These are some of the important questions which the DGCA has failed to cover in its regulations. Under the initial common law jurisprudence, the owner of the property was entitled to space ‘ad infinitum’ over and under his/her property. However, with the evolution and growth of the aviation sector, a limit has been set to this extent. But there is still an absence of any specific legislation determining the extent of airspace which is covered by the property, the only criteria being reasonable airspace for ordinary enjoyment of the property.[37] Thus, a minimum flying height must be specified at which the drones can fly when passing over any property. Several factors[38] must be taken into account while ascertaining a suitable height to ensure that the usage of UAV does not breach the privacy of an individual or interfere with the enjoyment of his/her property.

  • ANOMALIES IN THE EXISTING FRAMEWORK

Besides the non-inclusion of several important provisions, the existing regulations are also not free from anomalies. The policy as drafted by DGCA classifies drones on the basis of their weight ranging from nano (up to 250 grams) to large drones (150 Kg and above). Strict regulations have been put in place, which must be complied with before an individual can be permitted to use drones. Approval from several entities besides DGCA is required, further, there is also a mandate upon procuring a Unique Identification Number (UIN) or Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit. However, there is a catch to this, nano drones flying below the height of 50ft and micro drones flying below 200ft have been exempted from obtaining the UIN. This poses an obvious unanswered question as to how will such drones be monitored. 

The regulations are also retrograde as far as they pertain to VLOS. Under the previous regulations, only mini and micro drones were to adhere to VLOS.[39] However, under the present guidelines, all drones have to adhere to this irrespective of the weight category they come under.[40] In almost all Nations such restriction is only imposed upon the lighter drones, complete adherence to VLOS would hinder some uses of UAVs. 

In the guidelines, the terms owner and operator have been used interchangeably which creates confusion related to the compliances to be followed by the owner/ the operator of drones. Placing them at the same pedestal would also pose a hindrance to the enforcement of rights in case of any infringement.

  • THREATS POSED BY THE EXISTING FRAMEWORK

The lack of laws governing and safeguarding the usage of UAVs has led to various concerns pertaining to the safety and security of citizens and opening a vast potential for misuse. Some of the following being:

  1. Illicit Surveillance: These surveillance mechanisms have been brought to use for the sake of National security however, they have been used to carry out unauthorized tapping of citizens. Owing to their compact size and camera quality they go unnoticed by individuals being tapped as they can capture activities even from a height of 20,000 ft.[41] India has seen unidentifiable drone movements in sensitive areas like Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi.[42] UAVs are capable enough to carry along equipment that can interfere and record text messages and calls, break open WiFi codes and test networks, and facilitate collection of encrypted data.[43] The aforementioned activities are a threat to individual security and liberty. The personal data so collected can be used to blackmail people and for numerous other illegitimate activities.[44]  It is also extremely difficult to track the operators of UAVs carrying out illegal activities being remotely located.
  1. Threat to Personal Data: As mentioned earlier, UAVs can solicit personal information without consent. It can intervene with softwares and web portals to extract sensitive information like bank details and biometric information which can be manipulated and have multiple harmful uses. These can also be sold to data giants which can solicit it for their use.[45]  UAVs are susceptible to hacking, they can send incorrect GPS coordinates which escapes them from being tapped and can even cross-borders which has been prohibited by the regulations.[46] There have been instances of UAVs being hacked by terrorist organisations like ISI, Khalistan[47] to carry out their operations like carrying explosives, jamming networks, and executing their plans.[48] Hence, it is vehemently required to implement stricter sanctions for individuals carrying out such illicit activities. 
  1. Threat to safety: UAVs pose numerous security threats both on land and air. In multiple instances, the users are not adequately trained to operate the machines as they are significantly different from traditional aircraft, leading to numerous collisions.[49] The sky does not facilitate strict demarcation between fly zones and no-fly zones which can lead to these machines entering highly-sensitive areas causing further risks. These are also used to sell drugs.[50] Furthermore, the crashing of UAVs on the ground can cause harm to the public at large and make them vulnerable to grave injuries. This points towards an ardent need to install UAVs with sensors which can ensure prevention from collisions in the air. Moreover, there should be strict quality checks prior to permitting flight to reduce the risks of crashes on the ground. Besides the map demarcating fly-zones from no-fly zones also leads to some discrepancies. Intelligence agencies led by IB have been skeptical about this map as it will lead to strategic locations becoming public (as they have been marked as no-fly) zones, which would pose grave safety and security threats. Thus, it has suggested to only indicate the flyable area in the map without specifically marking the no-fly zones.[51]

WAY AHEAD FOR INDIA

Given the pertinent scope of misuse and the anomalies underlying the existing regulations. The authors would like to put forth some recommendations for the improvement of the same.

  • The use of UAVs in India, as has been highlighted above, is no longer restricted to the military. With their growing utility, the UAVs inevitably have the potential of becoming the new normal.[52] The surveillance and monitoring through UAVs are being vastly used in India and have been inculcated for several civilian activities. In light of the uses, there is a need for technical integration of the UAVs through protocols that would ensure their hassle-free coexistence around the civilians. The present set of regulations are shortsighted and inefficient in keeping pace with the growing arenas of technology. Thus, there is an ardent need for India to rethink its cobotic regulations facilitating the UAV technology, while safeguarding against the menace of threatened privacy and security.
  • The level of training which a remote pilot requires under the regulations is the same as that required by aircrew or private pilot. This requirement is highly irrational. Placing remote pilots at the same pedestal as aircraft pilots in matters of training seems highly disproportionate considering the level of expertise required in performing the two tasks. Further such stringent requirements would discourage usage of UAVs despite their legalization due to the lack of trained remote pilots.
  • The existing regulations fall short on various aspects of legal considerations in case of infringement. The nature of rights that can be potentially infringed (nuisance, privacy, trespass, negligence, hurt, etc.) reflect the importance of tort law in the development of ‘UAV jurisprudence’ in India. Flying drones would undoubtedly give rise to the cases of trespass and nuisance. However, with the law being unsettled on the permissible airspace which a person enjoys over his/her land, determining the same would be a tedious task with the perpetrator often going Scott-free. Thus there must be a minimum permissible height at which the UAV can pass over any property. Similarly, with the exemplified use of drones for surveillance, there are also chances of increased unauthorized surveillance and spying. This must be considered as a nuisance. The injuries caused due to the crash of drones due to malfunctioning (manufacturing defect) or negligence by the owner would amount to hurt depending on the grievousness of the injury caused. The Courts will be posed with the tedious task of determining the liability in such cases. Apart from these, there are various ways in which the rights of individuals can be infringed by the use of drones (as has been elucidated above). In light of the detrimental effects which UAV might have, a comprehensive legislative framework is required clearly highlighting the threats, means of protection, liability, and punishment in case of violations.
  • Means of tackling rogue drones also needs to be thought of implemented at the earliest. Instead of resorting to the traditional methods of police verification in line with the one done for gun licensing, innovative techniques must be resorted to. Many jurisdictions have adopted nets, frequency jammers, and anti-drone rays to tackle rogue drones. Similar equipment must also be developed and procured by India to avoid resorting to an unwanted ban on drones citing security threats.
  • Stricter privacy norms need to be resorted to alleviate privacy threats through the use of UAVs. There must be exemplary damages introduced in case of any violation of privacy. Further, in more serious matters it must extend to imposing criminal liability on the culprit. These methods would surely not eradicate all privacy incursions but would surely lessen the threat. The additional informational privacy risks must be countered by creating an informed citizenry through portals that would decimate information about the UAV operations and the use of gadgets in it. Lastly, with the widespread use of UAVs, there must be increased use of technologies for countering terrorism.[53] In matters of surveillance by enforcement agencies, any infringement upon individual privacy must be in line with the proportionality test.
  • The law enforcement agencies within the states and cities and those guarding critical infrastructures must be adequately trained to tackle such situations. Furthermore, they should be provided with necessary instruments that can facilitate the identifying, tracking, and neutralizing of threats. 
  • Making of an app, which would contain a track of all the data from the digital sky platform. The app should facilitate the citizens in discovering whether a UAV flying in their vicinity is legal or not. On finding any illegal UAV, the citizens can inform the authorities about its geographical coordinates.[54]  

CONCLUDING REMARKS

It is not dubious that the use of UAVs has several advantages and opens a host of opportunities. This outreach must be provided to the maximum number of people however the same must be done in line while tackling any threats to civil liberties. Any prospective legislation or regulations that are made by the authorities must take into consideration the opportunity which drones provide for boosting the economy, which in the present times of pandemic has become even more imperative and balancing them against the risks that they pose.


[1]  Hitesh Raj Bhagat, Drones: The broad types and the classifications, Economic Times, September 21, 2018, available  at:https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/transportation/airlines-/-aviation/drones-the-broad-types-and-dgca-classifications/articleshow/65906099.cms?from=mdr.

[2] Paul D M Holden, “Flying Robots and Privacy in Canada” CJLT, 8 January 2016, 14.1 CJLT 65.

[3]  IWM Staff, A brief history of drones, IWM UK, (January 30, 2018 Tuesday), https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/a-brief-history-of-drones

[4] Tekendra Parmar, Drones in India, BARD,(December 4, 2014) , https://dronecenter.bard.edu/drones-in-india/.

[5] Sato, Civil UAV Applications in Japan & related safety and certification, (2003),

http://uvs-international.org/phocadownload/ 03_5ac_Relevant_Information/Applications_Civil-UAV-Applicationsin-Japan.pdf.

[6] Amit Verma, Neha Verma,  UAVs in forest and wildlife management- an Indian Perspective, The Indian Forester L.J., Vol.144, Issue 2, Feb 2018, http://www.indianforester.co.in/index.php/indianforester/article/view/122494#:~:text=UAVs%20offer%20a%20low%2Dcost,relatively%20coarser%20resolution%20satellite%20images.&text=It%20also%20discusses%20the%20potential,wildlife%20management%20in%20Indian%20perspective.

[7] PTI, Drones to guard India’s forests and wildlife, The Hindu, August 6, 2014.available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/drones-to-guard-indias-forests-and-wildlife/article6286830.ece.

[8] R. Swaminathan, Drones & India: Exploring policy & regulatory challenges posed by civil UAVs, ORF OCCASIONAL PAPER 58, (February 2015),  https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/OccasionalPaper_58.pdf.

[9] Kapil Dixit, Advanced drones to add more ammo to Kumbh Mela Preparations,  TOI, April 28, 2018, available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/allahabad/advanced-drones-to-add-more-ammo-to-kumbh-mela-preparations/articleshow/63952938.cms.

[10] How drones are transforming the Media Industry, DRONITECH,(November 3, 2018), https://www.dronitech.com/how-drones-are-transforming-the-media-industry/#:~:text=The%20use%20of%20drones%20is,nature%20which%20may%20otherwise%20be.

[11] AM legals, India: Drone Technology Regulations, MONDAQ, (June 23, 2020),   https://www.mondaq.com/india/new-technology/957238/drone-technology-regulations.

[12] Ministry of Civil Aviation, SD&IT Division, Conditional exemption to Government entities for Covid-19 related RPAS operations, (May 2, 2020), https://www.civilaviation.gov.in/sites/default/files/Public%20notice_GARUD_Exemptions%20for%20Covid-19_2%20May%202020.pdf

[13] AM legals, India: Drone Technology Regulations, MONDAQ, (June 23, 2020),   https://www.mondaq.com/india/new-technology/957238/drone-technology-regulations.

[14] Covid-19 Scenario Emerging Role of Drones in India, FICCI,  http://ficci.in/SEDocument/20500/COVID-19-Drones.pdf.

[15]  Directorate of general Civil Aviation of India, public Notice No. 05-13/2014-AED, (October 7, 2014), https://www.bcmtouring.com/forums/attachments/pn_uas-pdf.724047/

[16] Office of the Director-General of Civil Aviation, public notice No. 07 -27/ 2016 – AED, (July 27, 2016), https://dgft.gov.in/sites/default/files/Notification_No.16_%28English%29.pdfI

[17] Press Information Bureau, Government of India Ministry of Civil Aviation, Operations of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) to be enabled through Digital Sky Platform, 27-August-2018,  https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=18309

[18] Drone Ecosystem ;Policy Roadmap, MINISTRY OF CIVIL AVIATION GOI,(January 2019),  https://www.globalaviationsummit.in/documents/DRONE-ECOSYSTEM-POLICY-ROADMAP.pdf

[19] FICCI, Countering Rogue Drones, ,available at: https://www.varindia.com/pdf/Countering-rouge-drones.pdf

[20]  Drone Laws in India, UAV COACH, https://uavcoach.com/drone-laws-in-india/.

[21] Ministry of Civil Aviation, Voluntary disclosures of non-compliant drones flying in India, (June 8, 2020),https://www.civilaviation.gov.in/sites/default/files/MoCA_Public%20Notice_Issuance_of_DAN_08_June_2020.pdf

[22]  Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[23] Sec 287, Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[24] Sec 336, Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[25] Sec 337, Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[26] Sec 338, Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[27] AM legals, India: Drone Technology Regulations, MONDAQ, (June 23, 2020),   https://www.mondaq.com/india/new-technology/957238/drone-technology-regulations.

[28]  PTI, Unidentified foreign man spotted using drone near Parliament, The Indian Express , October 18 2015, available at: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/unidentified-foreigner-spotted-using-drone-near-parliament/.

[29] Anvit Srivastava, Police can shoot down unidentified ‘flying objects’, TOI, January 29, 2016, available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Police-can-shoot-down-unidentified-flying-objects/articleshow/50763996.cms.

[30]  P Naveen, Who allowed Hanuman drones to hover over city, TOI,  September 19, 2016,available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/Who-allowed-Hanuman-drones-to-hover-over-city/articleshow/54400065.cms.

[31] K.S. Puttuswamy v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1; Kharak Singh v. The State of Uttar Pradesh, 1963 AIR 1295; Gobind v. State of Madhya Pradesh 1975 AIR 1378; and R Rajgopal & Anr v. State of Tamil Nadu,AIR 1995 SC 264.

[32] K.S. Puttuswamy v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1.

[33]  Modern Dental College v. State of MP,(2016)7)SCC 353.

[34] Delhi Police stumped by mystery drone at IGI Airport, Daily Mail, November 29, 2015, available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-3338561/Delhi-Police-stumped-mystery-drone-IGI-Airport.html.

[35] Crash-Avoidance system for drones aims to keep crowded skies safe,Wired,  October 29, 2014 available at:  https://www.wired.com/2014/10/skyspecs/.

[36] Brown v. Solary, 37 Fla. 102, 112 (Fla. 1896).

[37] Bernstein v Skyviews and General Ltd [1978] QB 479.

[38]  Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Drones: Guidelines, regulations, and policy gaps in India, (Mar 05 2018), https://www.orfonline.org/research/drones-guidelines-regulations-and-policy-gaps-in-india/.

[39]  Director General of Civil Aviation, Air Transport Circular XX of 2016 – guidelines for obtaining Unique Identification number (UIN) and Operation of Civil Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), (April 21, 2016), https://www.medianama.com/wp-content/uploads/DGCA-Drone-Circular.pdf.

[40] Office of Director General of Civil Aviation, Requirements for operation of Civil Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, (August 27, 2018), https://dgca.gov.in/digigov-portal/jsp/dgca/homePage/viewPDF.jsp?page=InventoryList/headerblock/drones/D3X-X1.pdf (¶ 12.2)

[41] Jennifer Lynch, Are drones watching you?, ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION, (January 10, 2012). https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/01/drones-are-watching-you.

[42] Mukesh Yadav, India’s new drone policy is shortsighted: here’s why?, (February 7, 2019), https://qz.com/india/1543681/indias-new-drone-policy-is-shortsighted-heres-why/.

[43] Surveillance Drones, ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION,,https://www.eff.org/issues/surveillance-drones.

[44] Richard M. Thompson, Domestic Drones and privacy: A primer, CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE, (March 30, 2015), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43965.pdf.

[45] Lein Greiner, What is Data Analysis and Data Mining?, DTAP, (Jan 7, 2011),https://www.dbta.com/Editorial/Trends-and-Applications/What-is-Data-Analysis-and-Data-Mining-73503.aspx.

[46]  Waqas, US Border Patrol Drones Hacked by Drug Cartels, HACKREAD, (Jan 3, 2016), https://www.hackread.com/us-border-patrol-drones-hacked-by-drug-cartels/.

[47] ISI, Khalistan Ultras Misusing Drones To Fuel Terror Attacks In India, Ommcom News, (June 20, 2020), https://ommcomnews.com/india-news/isi-khalistan-ultras-misusing-drones-to-fuel-terror-attacks-in-india.

[48] Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Drones: Guidelines, regulations, and policy gaps in India, (Mar 05 2018), https://www.orfonline.org/research/drones-guidelines-regulations-and-policy-gaps-in-india/.

[49] J.E. Reich,  FAA Report Reveals Drones Almost Collide With Planes Multiple Times A Day, TECH TIMES, (March 29, 2016), http://www.techtimes.com/articles/145369/20160329/faa-report-reveals-drones-almost-collide-with-planes-multiple-times-a-day.htm.

[50] Neeraj Arora, Unregulated Drones: Serious Threat to Security & Privacy in India | Cyber Research & Innovation Society,  CRIS, (September 6, 2019), https://cyberpandit.org/?article_post=unregulated-drones-serious-threat-to-security-privacy-in-india.

[51] Chetan Kumar, Drones: IB, security agencies raise security concerns over maps, India News, February 6, 2020, a\vaialble at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/drones-ib-security-agencies-raise-security-concerns-over-maps/articleshow/73964750.cms.

[52] R. Swaminathan, Drones & India: Exploring policy & regulatory challenges posed by civil UAVs, ORF OCCASIONAL PAPER 58, (February 2015),  https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/OccasionalPaper_58.pdf.

[53] Ananth Padmanabhan, Indian govt’s regulation for drones covered everything but privacy, ThePrint, November 1, 2019 available at: https://theprint.in/opinion/indian-govts-regulation-policy-for-drones-covered-everything-but-privacy/313888/ .

[54] FICCI, Countering Rogue Drones, available at: https://www.varindia.com/pdf/Countering-rouge-drones.pdf

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