Government to issue draft regulation on drone usage

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Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Thursday said a draft policy on the usage of drones and unmanned aerial systems (UASs) will be issued soon. The minister was speaking on the sidelines of an event here on the second round of bidding under the air regional connectivity scheme (RCS-Udan).  The minister said work on draft regulations is underway and that "legitimate activities for drone usage will be allowed". "In the civil aviation scenario, we would want legitimate activities to be carried out. Drones have humanitarian uses as well and these will be allowed but safety and security concerns will also be addressed," Raju said. The civil aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is said to be working on draft rules and regulations on the usage of drones and UASs and is expected to come out with draft regulations for public consultations by early next week. Last year, DGCA had issued an air transport circular on the usage of UASs, under which it had laid down guidelines for obtaining an UIN (Unique Identification Number). DGCA also planned to register all civil unmanned aircraft and issue a UA operator permit (UAOP) on case-to-case basis. The development assumes significance as recent incidents of drones or UAVs flying near airports have raised safety and security concerns.  When asked about Air India's divestment, Raju said: "An Alternate Mechanism has been setup for this... It (Alternate Mechanism) is working and we first need to get to a decision of what do we exactly want." "Basically, Air India is in a debt trap and this (situation) does not attract serious investors... so we have to see how we can get out of the trap." Raju observed that the airline in recent years has performed "much better" and took its balance sheet "from losses to operating profit".  Currently, a ministerial group has been formed to look into the modalities of Air India's divestment process ---- Air India-specific Alternative Mechanism -- and is being headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The group has been mandated to guide the strategic divestment process and to decide on key issues such as treatment of AI's debt and hiving-off of its assets. The airline which is under massive debt burden of Rs 50,000 crore had posted an operating profit of Rs 105 crore in 2015-16. For the last fiscal (2016-17), the company is expected to report an improved operating profit margin. The flag carrier had got a new lease of life on April 12, 2012, when the then UPA government had approved a Rs 30,000 crore turnaround (TAP) and financial restructuring plans (FRP) package spanning up to the year 2021.