India may soon have highways in the sky too: Here’s all you need to know

These highways in the sky have been envisaged as exclusive corridors for testing and flying both military and commercial drones

India may soon have highways in the sky too: Here’s all you need to know
Representative image. Source: Unsplash/David Henrichs

Highways in the sky seem to be something out of a sci-fi movie. But now, it will soon become a reality in India. 
Nearly 1,400 acres of land has been earmarked for this project, with the highways envisaged as exclusive corridors for testing and flying both military and commercial drones, according to a report in Banglore Mirror. 

The drone highways are being prepared at the second campus of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Karnataka's Challakere, 230 km from Bengaluru. These 'highways' would be equipped with drone ports too.   

"A massive drone corridor will be coming up in about 1,373 acres of land at the campus where testing and flying of both military and commercial drones would be carried out in the future. Equipped with drone ports and air corridor systems, autonomous flying machines of all sizes, including combat ones, will be tested here," Bangalore Mirror quoted Raejus Job a DGCA-NTRO, Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems instructor as saying. 

The agencies involved in the remote-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) project have applied for green zone clearance from the ministries of defence and civil aviation, Job added.  

According to the drone regulations prevalent in India, the country's airspace is divided into three zones with three different colour codes and varying levels of restrictions for flying drones. 

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Accordingly, red zones are 'no drone zones' and cover the sky over and around airports, international borders, Vijay Chowk in New Delhi, state secretariats in state capitals, strategic locations and vital/military installations. However, if the purpose of flying a drone in these areas is genuine, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) may grant permission on a case-to-case basis subject to the approval of the ministry of defence.

Yellow zones are controlled airspaces where permission is required for flying. Flights plans are to be revealed and air defence clearance (ADC)/flight information centre (FIC) number have to be obtained, while green zones are uncontrolled airspaces where air traffic control (ATC) services are not necessary or can't be provided due to practical reasons. Here, drone operators would only require to intimate the time and location of flights through the Digital Sky platform.

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"The research and development for the autonomous projects have already been completed and the technology has also been created. We need clearance from the DGCA, civil aviation and defence ministers to test these systems in these proposed drone corridors," Bharadwaj Amrutur, Research Head and Director, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Technology Park (ARTPARK), which is a joint initiative of IISc and AI Foundry, created recently to promote innovation in artificial intelligence and robotics.

Amrutur explained that these highways for autonomous drones would be much like highways for vehicles on the ground. He, however, pointed out that since unlike vehicles on the ground, the drones in the sky are remote-controlled, it must be ensured that the drones do not interlock with each other and can fly around freely.

(Cover image courtesy Unsplash/David Henrichs)