The Indian government could allow private low-airspace drone controllers

Indian private low-airspace drone controllers

The Indian government is currently exploring the possibility of allowing private airspace controllers for low- altitude drone operations. If approved, this would allow airspace below 1,000 feet to be controlled by private companies rather than a government air traffic controller.

The decision has been made to explore private controllers’ ideas due to the rapid growth the drone industry is currently dealing with. Essentially the Indian government can create new legislation at the same rate at which the industry is moving.

In urban areas, planes are not allowed to fly any lower than 1,000 feet, and 500 feet over rural areas. The majority of drone operations will occur in urban areas ensuring planes or other crewed aircraft don’t enter the airspace.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is currently the agency in control of the airspace. With this proposed change, it would only be in charge of the airspace above 1,000 feet.

Joint Secretary (Civil Aviation) Amber Dubey shared:

The drone ATC (air traffic controller) will be called UTM (unmanned traffic management), and it will collaborate with the manned traffic management, which is being handled currently as a sovereign function by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). It could be a government agency or a private agency. It is something that would evolve.

This idea might seem new, but it has been explored for some time now, with a few companies heading up space. The concept is specifically called unmanned traffic management (UTM). UTM is a method of controlling drones and other crewless aircraft using a unified system that integrates with the airspace to ensure drones are flying safely, legally, and on a path that won’t hit another aircraft.

A company leading the space is Altitude Angel. The company has its GuardianUTM software that allows developers and drone manufacturers to access tools and data that are accurate, up-to-date, and relevant to understand better active and past drone missions. The platform helps drone pilots follow local flight rules and avoid midair collisions with a dynamic alert system. GuardianUTM also includes data from local air authorities such as altitude restrictions, No-Fly Zones, and NOTAMs to ensure operations are as safe as possible.

Photo: Josh Sorenson

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