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Game of Drones: Trespass, Privacy, and Security in the Drone Market in India

Senior journalist and communication strategist, A subject matter expert on bureaucracy, governance, PSUs, start-ups and policy matter.
Oct 19, 2018 4:20 AM 3 min read
Editorial

Editor's Comment: This is the second and final part of the series, Game of Drones, deliberating the scope of the nascent drone market in India in light of recent regulations directing their commercial and personal use.

 

While part one touched upon the potential and size of drone markets in India, this article focuses on how DGCA's new policy framework, while intended to tap the myriad opportunities out there, misses some key provisions around trespass, privacy, and security.

 

Experts opine that though Directorate General of Civil Aviation's (DGCA’s) latest rules and requirements around drones in India (effective from December 2018) is a welcome step, it sidesteps several important issues.

 

 

Trespassing and Privacy

 

The guidelines are muted on the complex and intricate issue of trespassing and privacy.

 Drone market in India

At what point is a drone flight considered to be a trespass? The rules define permission/consent of a land/property owner within the limited scope of take-off and landing. What about when a drone conducts a fly-by through your property?

 

Most UAVs are installed with cameras transmitting footage in real-time. Operators may frequently find themselves embroiled in cases of unintended infringement of privacy. Besides, with technological advancements in sound recording and data capture, experts fear drones in India could be misused in invasive snooping. It would take more than a single clause (12.21) in 37-page document to provide adequate safeguard against this risk. In Japan, UAVs are required to maintain more than 30 metres of distance from people and objects. Violations of the clause will attract a fine of up to $4,000. India can perhaps take a cue from Japan in this regard.

 

Accidents

 

The rules specify an aerial height of 50-ft to 200-ft in which drones can fly to prevent interference with operations of commercial airliners. However, it only lightly addresses the threats posed in case of collision between UAVs or with a third-party leading to loss of life or property, aside from the requirement of operators to get insurance. There is hardly any detail or data on possible real-life scenarios, its implications, and modes of redressal.

 

There is no mechanism ensured in the proposed regulations which provide for safe operation of drones at low altitudes or guarantee zero interference between two UAVs within each other’s operations. With the number of drones rising, this gap will become alarmingly glaring in the future.

 

Security

 

UAVs can be vulnerable to hacking and require adequate software security protocols, something omitted within the rules. Malicious software and spyware can be easily implanted in drones and without adequate quality control, observers say, it is not possible to validate the digital security mechanisms of these vehicles. Food for thought for DGCA.

drone market in India 

The Way Forward

 

With the government moving ahead with the implementation of the drone policy, a big opportunity awaits the Indian UAV industry. However, at the same time privacy, security and regulatory concerns raised by experts cannot be ignored. These issues need to be carefully addressed. Also, India must study the prevailing drone policies of other nations and adopt their best practices in order to create an effective governance regime for drones in India.

 

FIN.

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