Here at T3, we know you’re as savvy as us but despite an exciting space, drones are often restricted to few products and companies. This month’s special feature focuses on how consumer drones came to be as well as things to note if you’re looking to pick one up as a hobby or a profession.
CONCEPT OF DRONES
Drones, which often paint the picture of a flying object capable of capturing images and videos, have been in existence since the early 1900s. Since their inception, they were used by the military for surveillance and to keep a check on the enemy across international borders. With its evolution over the course of the century, these aerial vehicles have formed a critical part of every country’s military alliance.
BIRTH OF CONSUMER DRONE TECHNOLOGY
However, it was not until the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2010 that this winged technology tilted towards the consumer space. Drones also commonly known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Quadcopters were about to hit that springboard of consumer’s imagination. Parrot, a French company first showcased its ‘AR Drone’ that had a camera on the front and back and could be controlled by an iOS device.
Fast forward to 2013, Dà-Jiāng Innovations Science and Technology Co. Ltd (DJI) introduced the Phantom, a drone that could capture images and fly to and fro with the touch of a button. A well-programmed piece of technology etched DJI’s name in every person’s mind who could fathom remote-controlled aerial technology.
DRONE AS AN EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY
From filmmaking, real estate, mining, photography, agriculture, property management, thermal mapping to critical missions like search and rescue operations, drones are becoming an integral part of the operation of various sectors. Why drones though? Because navigating for these purposes each time using planes or copters is not only expensive, it’s dangerous as well in comparison to using drones.
Aerial photography is a ‘fad’ that is rapidly picking up amongst enthusiasts. There are several brands that manufacture drones such as GoPro, Autel robotics, Swellpro, Parrot, Yuneec and DJI. DJI has cemented its position as the industry leader with Yuneec competing closely. So if you are looking to buy a drone for aerial photography, there is no second guess that it has to be a DJI drone. While the prices of these drones in India shoot up with the type of drone you want to buy, these are affordable if purchased abroad. But the caveat of purchasing them from international countries are issues such as heavy import duty or even confiscation by the customs department.
WHAT TYPE OF DRONE SUITS YOU?
If you are someone who is intrigued by these flying objects and intends to take a crack at this for the first time, buying smaller quadcopters and mastering the art of flight is the right way to go. The fundamental learning here is the same as when purchasing a car or a bike.
The ‘Tello’ launched by DJI and a Shenzhen startup Ryze Tech costs $99 (approx. ₹6500) could be your starting point to hop on the bandwagon. There are much cheaper drones available online and offline starting from around ₹1,000.
DJI, in the last couple of years, has launched the Mavic Pro & Platinum, Spark and only but recently, the Mavic Air. These drones, except for the Spark, shoot at 4k 60fps and 30fps respectively, are ultra-portable and could fit in your bag and pack a hefty punch when compared to their Phantom siblings.
The Mavic series and Spark can really (and does) fulfill an enthusiast photographer’s needs. But if those don’t satiate your pixel hungry imagination, move over to the Prosumer drones, the DJI Phantom series. These drones are built for aerial photography. Big, white (most of them) and bulky. You would’ve sighted these at weddings recently or at outdoor events.
You have the Phantom 3 SE which is more of a beginner drone, the Phantom 4 and then the Phantom 4 Pro. The Phantom 4 Pro drone is one of the best Prosumer Drones in aerial photography by DJI so far. Boasting a 20MP, 1-inch CMOS camera sensor and 5-way obstacle avoidance make it impossible to crash unless you are really delinquent.
WHERE TO BUY?
For cheaper drones, you can look up Amazon.in, toy stores or places like Lamington Road in Mumbai. There are plenty of offline retailers as well who sell DJI and other branded drones.
DRONE REGULATIONS IN INDIA
Is it illegal to fly drones in India? Technically yes, until DGCA puts policies in place for consumer drones. However, based on the recent draft released by the DGCA on November 1, 2017, they are working on policies to legalise flying of drones in India.
Drones are divided into 5 categories depending on their weight. Nano (less than or equal to 250g), Micro (greater than 250g and less than or equal to 2kg), Mini (greater than 2kg and less than or equal to 25kg), Small (greater than 25kg and less than or equal to 150kg), Large (greater than 150 kg).
Is there a license to fly these things? Yes, it is called an ‘Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit’ (UAOP) with a validity of 5 years from the date of issue. To obtain one of these, you will first need to register your drone for a Unique Identification Number (UIN) which is the equivalent of vehicle number plates. Nano and Micro Drones won’t require a UIN or UAOP if you fly below 200ft but you need to obtain permission from the local police before flying.
Here’s a handy guide based on the current draft.
– You must be at least 18 years old and a resident of India
– All drones must be equipped with a license plate identifying the operator, and how to contact them
– Drones should have valid and substantial insurance for the drone in case of accidents.
– Do not fly a drone within a 5km radius of airports or in areas where aircrafts operate
– Do not fly within 50 km from international border which includes Line of Control (LoC), Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL)
– Eco-sensitive zones around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries notified by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change without prior permission
– Within 5 km radius from Vijay Chowk in Delhi.
– Within 500m from the perimeter of strategic locations notified by Ministry of Home Affairs
– Within 500m from the perimeter of military installations/ facilities
This special feature first appeared in the April issue of T3 India. To subscribe, click here.