Tower of Silence out of bound for drones, aviation ministry to mark it as prohibited area

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has ruled against flying drones around Tower of Silence in Malabar Hills, where the Parsi community carries out last rites for their departed. The MoCA has also said that flying drones will not be permitted in 5-km radius of Mumbai Airport and 3-km radius of Juhu Airport.

From December last year, the Central government started accepting applications from drone operators to obtain flying licence.

There are three specific zones with regard to drone flying: the red zone, where flying is not permitted; the yellow zone, where the airspace is controlled; green zone, where there is no hindrance to flying, indicating automatic permission.

Of these, three locations in Mumbai have so far been proposed to have red zones, which includes the Tower of Silence. In the past, the Parsi community had opposed to the proposal of reducing the no flying zone’s radius from 1,852 metre to 500 metre; they also opposed to the flight pathway of under-construction Navi Mumbai Airport, which was passing above the Tower of Silence.

As a ritual, the Parsi community gives up the body of their dead to scavenger birds. This practice entails ensuring that the bodies are not exposed to any external aerial element except the sun. In Mumbai, the Tower of Silence is located in south Mumbai at Malabar Hills.

On the number of red and yellow zones marked in the city of Mumbai, the MoCA said in Lok Sabha earlier this week, “Two red zones of 5 km around the perimeter of Mumbai Airport and 3 km around the perimeter of Juhu Airport have been earmarked. One red zone will be marked around the Tower of Silence.”

The MoCA further informed that, “One yellow zone will be marked to identify controlled airspace around Mumbai Airport. Military installations will be notified by the Ministry of Defence and vital installations will be notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs.”

Further, the MoCA has also informed that a task force has been constituted by it to formulate a road map with implementable recommendations for the central and state government to leverage Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology. While applications are being accepted for drone license, the MoCA has also informed that no UAV operator permit has been issued till date.

Noshir Dadrawala of Bombay Parsi Panchayet said, “Air-space above the Tower of Silence has been a no fly zone for aircraft for decades; in my knowledge, we haven’t received any communication for drones from the government yet. Any kind of flying object means the same, no fly means no fly; it is good if it has been marked as a no fly zone for drones too, and we are glad the government is doing so.”

Published on DNA India