Drone registrations slow to take off

Deadline nears, but drone registrations slow to take off


With no accurate idea of how many illegal drones exist in the country, officials are unable to quantify the scale of registrations.

Although the deadline for the registration of all civilian drones is less than two weeks away, the number of registrations have not reached the level that the government has hoped for, officials said. The deadline for registrations is January 31.

To date, the total number of drone-owner registrations are a mere 2,517 with 2,000 of them registered in a four-day period last week alone when the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA) issued the Ownership Acknowledgment Numbers (OANs) to the drones.

"The issuance figures of OANs is a huge jump from the two registrations the Ministry did previously over a 12-month period. This shows that drone owners are taking cognizance of the new registration guidelines," a government official said.

Furthermore, with no accurate idea of how many illegal drones exist in the country, officials and analysts said they are unable to quantify the scale of registrations.

At present, there is no accounting of how many "illegal" machines have been smuggled into the country. "There may be as many as five lakh — we just do not know. The registrations are, in essence, a survey," the official said.

However, Ankit Mehta, co-chair of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), said that the number of unregistered or "illegal" drones in India is likely to be between the range of 50,000 and 60,000. "Numbers have been inflated by the anti-drone lobby," he said.

Latent Fear

Several drone owners contacted by DH said they are counting on the government to abide by its declaration not to penalise users who have procured drones via "gray channels".

Officials admitted that registrations are inching along because members of the drone-user community are afraid that their "illegal" machines will incur stiff penalties. However, they clarified that only a failure to register by the deadline will incur penalties. These are said to range in severity based on which agency apprehends an illegal operator.

"Using drones in sensitive areas could see users apprehended by the defence forces, in other cases, offenders could be jailed," the official said.

Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola described the registrations as a precursor to licensing. "I can assure all drone owners and the industry that the regulatory framework will be extremely congenial," he said.

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