Drone Traffic Management Policy Framework

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    In News

    • The Ministry of Civil Aviation has notified a traffic management policy framework for drones.
      • It envisages private, third-party service providers for ensuring safe operations.
    • The framework has been issued under the Drone Rules 2021.

    About the Framework

    • Established Unmanned Traffic Management Service Providers(UTMSP):
      • It will extend automated, algorithm-driven software services instead of voice communication as in the traditional Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems. 
      • It will be responsible for segregating and separating a drone from other drones and manned aircraft in the airspace below 1,000 feet in the country.
    • Integration of UTMSP and ATM:
      • So that flight plans and real-time location of manned aircraft can be recorded as well in order to continuously separate manned and unmanned aircraft from each other.
    • Supplementary Service Providers(SSPs):
      • The traffic management providers will be assisted by SSPs.
      • It will maintain data about 
        • the terrain, 
        • Weather,
        •  location of manned aircraft and 
      • It would also provide services such as insurance, data analytics and drone fleet management.
    • Access to Law Enforcement Agencies:
      • Law enforcement and security agencies will have access to some information in the UTM ecosystem on a need-to-know basis.
    • Service Fee:
      • UTMSPs would levy a service fee on users
      • A small portion of which will also be shared with the Airports Authority of India.
    • Geographic Presence:
      • UTMSPs will be deployed in small areas to begin with and their geographic presence may be increased subsequently.
    • Public and Private Players:
      • The framework allows both public and private third-party service providers to manage unmanned aerial vehicles in lower airspace.
      • The government will carry out UTM-based experiments in the country and then float a request for proposal for onboarding UTMSPs.
      • Following which an evaluation process will be undertaken 
        • Thereafter , successful participants will be awarded regions for establishment of UTM services. 

    Why a separate framework for drones?

    • It has become important to safely manage both manned and unmanned aircraft, particularly at low-level airspace where the drones fly.
    • Increasing number of drones:
      • The number of drones being used in India is all set to increase after the latest liberalized drone regulations.
    • Inefficiency of design in current systems:
      • Current air traffic management (ATM) systems have not been designed to handle the traffic from unmanned aircraft.
    • Scaling up: 
      • Traditional traffic management services provided by Air Traffic Controllers for manned aircraft cannot be scaled for managing drone traffic
        • Which is expected to become at least 100 times higher 
        • Since the traditional ATM is manual and requires human intervention.
    • Integration would be cost ineffective:
      • Integration of unmanned aircraft in the Indian airspace using conventional means 
        • may require unmanned aircraft to be equipped with bulky and expensive hardware, which is neither feasible nor advisable
    • Security concerns:
      • Drones being used to drop explosive devices, triggering blasts inside the Air Force Station’s technical area in Jammu.
      • Pakistan is regularly deploying drones over the past two years to smuggle arms, ammunition and drugs into Indian territory.
      • Rapidly proliferating drone technology and exponential growth of its global market, the possibility of a drone attack cannot be ruled out.
      • Recently, Iranian drones were apparently used in a strike on an oil tanker operated by an Israeli-owned company.

    Drone management in India

    • PLI
      • The Union government approved a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and drone components.
      • An allocation of Rs 120 crore spread over three financial years has been approved for it.
    • Drone Rules, 2021 
      • Eased the regulation of drone operations in India by reducing the number of forms to be filled to operate them from 25 to five 
      • Decreasing the types of fees charged from the operator from 72 to four.

    Source: TH