The Ministry of Civil Aviation approved drone operations in an additional 166 green zones or uncontrolled airspaces across the country, bringing the total to 232. The Department has approved NPNT (No-Permission-No-Takeoff) drone operations up to 400 ft above the ground (AGL) above these green zones that do not require Air Traffic Control (ATC).

The new green zones added to the list are located in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh.

Drones that comply with the NPNT (No Permission, No Takeoff) protocol can fly in these airspaces. The ordinance, signed by Amber Dubey, the joint secretary of the Department of Civil Aviation, urged state governments to facilitate the operation of NPNT-compliant drones to help industry grow in India.

According to the Directorate-General for Civil Aviation, any remotely controlled aircraft (with the exception of nano-drones) must obtain valid “NPNT” or “No Authorization – No Takeoff” authorization via the Digital Sky platform before it can be used in India. The framework obliges users to register on the online portal, which acts as the national unmanned traffic management system for remote-controlled aircraft. Flying in these approved “green zones” only requires the indication of the time and location of the flights via the Digital Sky portal or the app.

Source: Ministry of Civil Aviation

Drone flights in the green zones must comply with the UAS rules (Unmanned Aircraft System) 2021 and other relevant regulations / guidelines of the Ministry of Civil Aviation published by Press India Bureau said. In February, by order of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, 26 additional green areas were approved for the flight of compliant drones in India.

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More than 70% of the airspace is illuminated in green

In August 2020, the ministry announced that nearly 70% of Indian airspace is lit green for compliant drones to fly in. This included both green and yellow zones (controlled air space). The remaining 30% of the airspace is demarcated as a red zone, which is classified as restricted airspace due to its sensitivity. Drones can fly in this zone, but with special permission from the security authorities.

These developments come at a time when the Department of Civil Aviation is taking various measures to streamline the country’s still-developing drone landscape. Earlier this month, the Indian government allowed 20 companies to conduct drone operations out of line of sight, which allows drones to be controlled remotely without the need to maneuver them when looking at them.

In May, the government allowed state governments and universities to apply for BVLOS operations. Previously, it was experimentally allowed to boom consortia made up of 10 companies across the country as part of a regulatory sandbox.

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