How NOT TO import a Drone to India 101

3 minutes read

Planning to import a drone to India?? Get ready to rumble then, because even after so many announcements and coming up of new sites to make the process online and streamlined, it still isn’t! In this article I’d be detailing my experience till now, while trying to clear a single DJI Tell Drone from Indian customs.

So before we start, here’s the lay down:

*What are the requirements for import of RPAs (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) in India?

  • Any entity intending to import RPAS in India shall obtain Equipment Type Approval (ETA) from WPC Wing, Department of Telecommunication for operating in de-licensed frequency band(s). Such approval shall be valid for a particular make and model.
  • The applicant, other than Nano category, shall apply to DGCA along with ETA for import clearance. Based upon the import clearance issued by DGCA, DGFT shall issue license for import of RPAS.

*Referenced from Digital Sky Platform, which as the FAQ suggests is an online IT platform developed for handling UIN, UAOP applications, permission to fly RPAs in India, but fails miserably in that.

Image Courtesy – Alpha Rotors

Follow up question, what is a Nano category RPA and how does one categorize it?

So in short, I need to

  1. Procure an ETA from Wireless Planning Coordination (WPC).
  2. Send the same to Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for import clearance. Simple enough right? Wrong again!

After scourging the net and going through some detailed references and WPC’s own website, I still had no clue what and how to get the ETA. You may ask what, especially since it seems pretty straightforward based on this link – File an online application for an ETA, mention Non network Service, Import and finally License Service before moving on to next steps. But here’s the best part, there’s no longer an option available for Import! So now we’re stuck with nothing.

Thereafter, I ended up paying a short visit to the WPC, DOT Wing of the Ministry of Communications, Delhi. After a couple of minutes of going to and fro between people I found out there’s actually another website to apply for ETA and again another demo for the same. Here again, it only mentions steps on how to Add an ETA Model, which, luckily in my case there was no need as it already existed in the system!

NOTE – To check if your RPA is authorized by the Federated Certification Company LLC refer to this link. For the Tello Drone, the Grantee Code is 2AOOE. You’d need this both while adding a new ETA Model and sharing the Test Reports.

Now you’d be hoping there’d be no catch here right? But there is! As of July 29 2019 there is, no provision to download the ETA document for any of the Regional Licensing Offices (RLOs) Approved Equipments.

UPDATE 1 – I finally got hold of the ETA document for the DJI Tello and on sharing the same with DCGA concerned personnel, was bombarded with instructions asking DJI to confirm if they abide by India’s rules and regulations regarding , which I researched myself and shared answers for most of them. This was almost a month back and till now no response.

Surprising how difficult it has become for an individual to import a commodity now. For those wishing to forego this headache can simply go and purchase the same drone from Amazon, albeit for a bit higher cost.

UPDATE 2- For those hoping to find out the questions I was bombarded with and answers I gave, I’ve provided a link to a Google Document detailing the same.

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