An aeromodelling show organized by the Aero Club of India (ACI) attracted enthusiasts from all across India, but none from the city. Reason: The club flouted a Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) notification issued in October 2014, which bars operation of any unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Indian airspace. While authorities at ACI have claimed that the "regulatory bodies have not understood the difference between commercial implications and hobby flying", Amdavadi aeromodelling enthusiasts are outraged that a body recognized by the government chose to disregard DGCA orders.
ACI is the apex body of flying clubs and institutions engaged in giving training of flying and aerosports in the country. It is one of the sports federations recognized by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. There are close to 500 aeromodelling enthusiasts in the city. The DGCA notification issued on October 7, 2014, said, "DGCA is in the process of formulating the regulations (and globally harmonize them) for certification and operation for use of UAVs in the Indian civil airspace. Till such regulations are issued, no non-government agency, organization, or an individual will launch an UAV in Indian civil airspace for any purpose whatsoever."
The stringent laws in place help keep the airspace safe from potential threats like terror attacks. "I am stunned that the ministry has turned a blind eye to this blatant violation of rules and the Indian airspace. How can a body under the government disregard these rules?" questioned city-based aero modeler Shail Sheth. With over 30 years of aero modeling experience under his belt, Sheth chose not to participate in the Amreli event that was held from February 18 to 21.
Nilesh Doshi, another aero modeler from the city who also has a license allowing him to fly as a commercial pilot, said, "The DGCA notification stops us from practicing completely. Going by the notice, it has been two years since the government body has been forming the law so should there not be some guidelines in place that allow hobbyists to pursue their passion?" When Mirror inquired about the alleged violation of rule stated by DGCA, ACI's secretary general Anisha Suresh claimed the regulating bodies do not understand the difference between commercial and hobby flying.
"The regulatory authorities have not understood that there is a difference between commercial implications and hobby flying and put a stop on everything," said Anisha, adding that the Aeromodelling Championship was an attempt to make people aware about such a sport. "In an international aero sport competition organized last year, there were no participants from India. We wanted to change this and decided to host events to create awareness among people," the secretary general stressed.
On the notification, she added, "We have tried to talk to the regulatory authority and ministry about the differences between commercial and hobby flying along with aero sports but 'that does not seem to be a priority for them'. The body will be able to form clear guidelines only once they have understood the distinction after a discussion." Anisha was quick to point out that an aero show was organized by the state civil aviation department in Mehsana in February where several UAV models were demonstrated.
"Why were participants of that particular show not stopped or detained as is the case elsewhere. After all, the event in Mehsana was conducted in the presence of ministers and senior police officers," she pointed out. ACI had also held its event in February. About 15 aero- modellers participated in the event. Director of Civil Aviation Ajay Chauhan was not available for a comment.
Joint Director General Lalit Gupta also did not comment on the issue and directed the query posed by Mirror to Director of Aircraft Engineering Directorate Hillol Biswas. Meanwhile, Joint Director General J S Rawat argued, "How do we say it is a violation? We did not see any such activity happening." Mirror received no response from Director General of DGCA on the issue. Even state minister for civil aviation Saurabh Patel was unavailable for comment.
Aeromodelling is the design, construction and flying of model airplanes and other aerial vehicles. It is internationally recognized as a sport and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) — the World Air Sports Federation — conducts aeromodelling competitions globally.
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