Ministry of Civil Aviation notifies liberalised Drone Rules, 2021
New Delhi, August 26, 2021
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has notified liberalised Drone Rules, 2021 aimed at helping India realise its potential of becoming a global drone hub by the year 2030 and create employment and economic growth.
In March, the Ministry had published the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Rules, 2021. However, these were perceived by academia, startups, end-users and other stakeholders as being restrictive involving considerable paperwork, requiring permissions for every drone flight. Very few “free to fly” green zones were available.
Based on the feedback, the Government decided to repeal the UAS Rules, 2021 and replace them with the liberalised Drone Rules, 2021, an official press release said.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, offer tremendous benefits to almost all sectors of the economy like agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, transportation, geo-spatial mapping, defence and law enforcement.
According to the release, drones can be significant creators of employment and economic growth due to their reach, versatility and ease of use, especially in India’s remote and inaccessible areas. Given its traditional strengths in innovation, information technology, frugal engineering and huge domestic demand, India has the potential to be a global drone hub by the year 2030, it said.
"The new rules are built on the premise of trust, self-certification and non-intrusive monitoring. These are designed to usher in an era of super-normal growth while balancing safety and security considerations," the release said.
Under the new rules, several approvals have been abolished. These include the unique authorisation number, unique prototype identification number, certificate of manufacturing and airworthiness, certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permits, authorisation of R&D organisation, student remote pilot licence, remote pilot instructor authorisation and drone port authorisation.
The number of forms has been reduced from 25 to 5 and types of fees reduced from 72 to 4. The quantum of the fee was lowered to nominal levels and delinked from the size of the drone. For instance, the fee for a remote pilot license fee has been reduced from Rs 3,000 (for large drones) to Rs 100 for all categories of drones with 10-years validity.
A digital sky platform will be developed as a user-friendly single-window system. There will be minimal human interface and most permissions will be self-generated.
An interactive airspace map with green, yellow and red zones will be displayed on the digital sky platform within 30 days of publication of these rules. No permission is required for operating drones in green zones. Green zone means the airspace up to a vertical distance of 400 feet or 120 metres that has not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone in 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 km from the perimeter of an operational airport.
The yellow zone has been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter. No remote pilot licence will be required for micro drones (for non-commercial use) and nano drones. There will be no requirement for security clearance before the issuance of any registration or licence.
There will also be no requirement of Type Certificate, unique identification number and remote pilot licence by R&D entities operating drones in their own or rented premises, located in a green zone. No restriction is placed on foreign ownership in Indian drone companies.
The import of drones will be regulated by DGFT. The requirement of import clearance from DGCA has been abolished.
Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also. DGCA will prescribe drone training requirements, oversee drone schools and provide pilot licences online.
A remote pilot licence will be issued by DGCA within 15 days of the pilot receiving the remote pilot certificate from the authorised drone school through the digital sky platform.
Testing of drones for issuance of Type Certificate will be carried out by the Quality Council of India or authorised testing entities. Type Certificate will be required only when a drone is to be operated in India. Importing and manufacturing drones purely for exports are exempt from type certification and unique identification numbers.
Nano and model drones (made for research or recreation purposes) are exempt from type certification. Manufacturers and importers may generate their drones’ unique identification number on the digital sky platform through the self-certification route. An easier process is specified for the transfer and deregistration of drones through the digital sky platform.
Drones present in India on or before November 30, 2021, will be issued a unique identification number through the digital sky platform provide, they have a DAN, a GST-paid invoice and are part of the list of DGCA-approved drones.
Standard operating procedures (SOP) and training procedure manuals (TPM) will be prescribed by DGCA on the digital sky platform for self-monitoring by users. No approvals are required unless there is a significant departure from the prescribed procedures.
The maximum penalty for violations has been reduced to INR 1 lakh. Safety and security features like "No permission – No take-off" (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geo-fencing etc. will be notified in future. A six-month lead time will be provided to the industry for compliance.
Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries. Drone promotion council will be set up by Government with participation from academia, startups and other stakeholders to facilitate a growth-oriented regulatory regime, the release added.