What Are The New And Liberalised Drone Regulations In India?
Economy & Commerce

What Are The New And Liberalised Drone Regulations In India?

The central government has issued the Drone Rules 2021, which are far more liberal than the previous regime for unmanned aircraft systems. Several criteria and clearances have been eliminated under the new guidelines, a draught of which was posted in July, and this is likely to make drone operations easier for civilian drone operators.

What are the primary differences between the current framework and the prior framework that governed drone operations?

To begin, the total number of paperwork that must be completed has been decreased from 25 to five, and the total number of fees that must be paid before operating drones has been reduced from 72 to only four.

The various approvals that were required, such as a unique authorisation number, a unique prototype identification number, a certificate of manufacturing and airworthiness, a certificate of conformance, a certificate of maintenance, an import clearance, the acceptance of existing drones, an operator permit, an authorisation of a research and development organisation, a student remote pilot licence, a remote pilot instructor authorisation.

Furthermore, the charge amount, which was previously tied to the size of the drone, has been reduced and delinked from the size. For example, the remote pilot licence fee has been decreased from ₹3,000 to ₹100 for a large drone.

What are the many other relaxations?

The Civil Aviation Ministry stated that the Digital Sky platform, which it had previously envisioned, will be created as a single-window platform for all clearances required. In addition, an interactive airspace map displaying the three zones — yellow, green, and red — will be presented on the site. Drone operators have been told where they can and cannot fly their aircraft systems in these zones. Even in these zones, the government has liberalised the rules greatly.

For example, the yellow zone, which was previously a 45-kilometer radius around an airport perimeter, has been decreased to a 12-kilometer radius, indicating that drone operators no longer need permission to fly outside of a 12-kilometer radius around an airport perimeter.

Are there any security concessions as well?

Yes. Previously, a security clearance was required prior to the issue of a registration or licence. The government has now removed the requirement for this approval. Foreign ownership of companies that use drones has also been permitted. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade, on the other hand, will continue to regulate drone imports.

Significantly, the guidelines’ coverage has been expanded to include drones weighing up to 500 kg, up from 300 kg previously, bringing drone taxis into the mix.

What are the implications of these new drone regulations?

The government’s policy adjustment to enable civilian drone operations indicates the government’s goal to allow drone use while also protecting security from rogue drones through the anti-rogue drone framework established in 2019. The new policy’s draught rules were first published in July, only weeks after a drone strike on an Indian Air Force installation in Jammu.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarked in a series of tweets regarding the new Drone Rules, “The new Drone Rules will immensely boost start-ups and our young working in this industry.” It will provide new opportunities for business and innovation. It will aid India’s efforts to become a drone hub by leveraging the country’s strengths in innovation, technology, and engineering.”

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rules, 2021 were released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) in March 2021. (UAS Rules, 2021). They were seen as restrictive by academia, startups, end-users, and other stakeholders since they needed a lot of paperwork, required approvals for every drone flight, and only a few “free to fly” green zones. The government has chosen to remove the UAS Rules, 2021 and replace them with the liberalised Drone Rules, 2021, based on public feedback.

According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on August 26, “Drones, or unmanned aircraft systems, benefit nearly every sector of the economy, including agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, transportation, geospatial mapping, defence, and law enforcement. Because of their reach, variety, and ease of use, drones have the potential to generate enormous employment and economic growth, particularly in India’s remote and inaccessible areas. India has the potential to become a worldwide drone hub by 2030, thanks to its historic strengths in innovation, information technology, cost-effective engineering, and large domestic demand.”

Meanwhile, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia told news agency ANI that drone applications will be made available in areas including as transportation, logistics, defence, mining, and infrastructure, to mention a few.

He went on to say that the government’s goal with these restrictions is to turn India into a worldwide drone powerhouse by 2030 while also creating more jobs. Several approvals have been eliminated under the new requirements.

The key highlights.

  • Trust, self-certification, and non-intrusive monitoring are the foundations of this system.
  • Designed to usher in a new era of super-normal growth while maintaining a sense of safety and security.
  • Several approvals have been eliminated, including the unique authorisation number, the unique prototype identification number, the certificate of manufacturing and airworthiness, the certificate of conformance, the certificate of maintenance, the import clearance, the acceptance of existing drones, the operator permit, the authorisation of R&D organisations, the student remote pilot licence, the remote pilot instructor authorisation, the drone port authorisation, and so on.
  • The number of forms available has been reduced from 25 to 5.
  • Fee types have been reduced from 72 to four.
  • Quantum of fee reduced to nominal levels and delinked with size of drone.  For instance, the fee for a remote pilot license fee has been reduced from INR 3000 (for large drone) to INR 100 for all categories of drones; and is valid for 10 years.
  • Digital sky platform shall be developed as a user-friendly single-window system.  There will be minimal human interface and most permissions will be self-generated.
  • Interactive airspace map with green, yellow and red zones shall be displayed on the digital sky platform within 30 days of publication of these rules.
  • Drones are not required to be used in green zones. The airspace up to a vertical distance of 400 feet or 120 metres above the area located between a lateral distance of 8 and 12 kilometres from the perimeter of an operational airport, which has not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone on the airspace map; and the airspace up to a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 metres above the area located between a lateral distance of 8 and 12 kilometres from the perimeter of an operational airport.
  • The yellow zone around the airport has been decreased from 45 km to 12 km.
  • Micro drones (for non-commercial use) and nano drones do not require a remote pilot licence.
  • No security clearance is required prior to the issue of any registration or licence.
  • Micro drones (for non-commercial use) and nano drones do not require a remote pilot licence.
  • No security clearance is required prior to the issue of any registration or licence.
  • R&D entities operating drones on their own or rented facilities in a green zone are not required to have a Type Certificate, a unique identifying number, or a remote pilot licence.
  • Foreign ownership of Indian drone firms is not restricted.
  • The DGFT will regulate drone imports.
  • Import clearance from the DGCA is no longer required.
  • Drone coverage under the Drone Rules, 2021 has been expanded from 300 kilogramme to 500 kg. This will also apply to drone taxis.
  • Drone coverage under the Drone Rules, 2021 has been expanded from 300 kilogramme to 500 kg. This will also apply to drone taxis.
  • The DGCA will establish drone training requirements, monitor drone schools, and issue pilot licences via the internet.
  • The DGCA will award a remote pilot licence within 15 days of the pilot acquiring a remote pilot certificate from an authorised drone school via the digital sky platform.
  • The Quality Council of India or permitted testing bodies will test drones for the purpose of issuing a Type Certificate.
  • Only when a drone is to be used in India is a Type Certificate necessary. Drones imported and manufactured solely for export are not subject to type certification or a unique identification number.
  • Type certification is not required for nano and model drones that are used for study or leisure.
  • Self-certification allows manufacturers and importers to generate the unique identification number for their drones on the digital sky platform.
  • Transfer and deregistration of drones via the digital sky platform will be made easier.
  • Drones that are present in India on or before November 30, 2021, will be given a unique identification number through the digital sky platform if they have a DAN, a GST-paid invoice, and are on the DGCA’s approved drone list.
  • On the digital sky platform, the DGCA will prescribe standard operating procedures (SOP) and training procedure manuals (TPM) for user self-monitoring. Unless there is a considerable deviation from the authorised procedures, no permissions are necessary.
  • The maximum fine for infractions has been reduced to INR 1 lakh.
  • No permission – no takeoff (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geo-fencing, and other safety and security measures will be announced in the future. For compliance, the industry will be given a six-month lead time.
  • For cargo deliveries, drone lanes will be constructed.
  • To assist a growth-oriented regulatory framework, the government will establish a drone promotion committee with participation from academia, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders.

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