Last week, India introduced the 2021 drone rules that many relaxed restrictions introduced a few years ago. The government also reduced fees for permissions to use drones in the country and excluded the security clearance requirement before obtaining a registration or license. The update simplifies drone operations in the country and targets various industries looking to deploy uncrewed aerial vehicles for emergency response, surveillance, geospatial mapping, and law enforcement. However, the new drone rules have raised privacy concerns, as there is no clarity on reporting abuse. There is also speculation that the rules should greatly strengthen citizens’ oversight.

On this week’s episode of Gadget’s 360 podcast Orbital, host Akhil Arora speaks with Internet Freedom Foundation Associate Counsel — Surveillance and Transparency Anushka Jain, Skye Air Mobility co-founder Swapnik Jakkampuddi, and Founder and Director of Technology for Wildlife Shashank Srinivasan to discuss the scope of the new drone rules and how they can affect our lives.

We open with the reforms introduced in the new drone rules to facilitate the use of drones by businesses and government agencies. Last year, start-ups including Dunzo, Swiggy, and Zomato received approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to test drone deliveries in the country. It was done also started a pilot drone delivery of drugs and COVID-19 vaccines in Telangana earlier this year. Similarly, Swiggy launched trials for food deliveries via drones. It will all be much easier with the new rules.

Jakkampuddi of drone delivery company Skye Air Mobility describes some of the biggest hurdles businesses faced during the Early Beyond Visual Line of sight (BLVOS) trials expected to be eradicated by the new rules. He also states that the new regulations make operations easier for new drone pilots.

However, Srinivasan of geospatial data conservation consultancy Technology for Wildlife points out that the new drone rules do not clarify how they can help individuals and people such as farmers to start using drones themselves instead of choosing a third party. He also emphasizes that the rules do not address flying drone issues in national parks and tiger reserves, which were part of the previous regulations.

Jain of the non-governmental digital rights organization Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) also underscores several privacy concerns in the new drone rules. She also foresees that by facilitating the use of drones by individuals, companies, and authorities, the rules could expand mass surveillance in the country. There are also privacy concerns, as drones can easily monitor others. During the state lockdowns due to an increase in COVID-19 cases earlier this year, police forces in several states also used drones to conduct local surveillance and collect data from individuals to ensure the given restrictions were adhered to. However, that also had consequences for the privacy of many people.

You can listen to the full discussion by hitting the Spotify player’s play button.

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I have been blogging since August 2011. I have had over 10,000 visitors to my blog! My goal is to help people, and I have the knowledge and the passion to do this. I love to travel, dance, and play volleyball. I also enjoy hanging out with my friends and family. I started writing my blogs when I lived in California. I would wake up in the middle of the night and write something while listening to music and looking at the ocean. When I moved to Texas, I found a new place to write. I would sit in my backyard while everyone else was at work, and I could write all day.