drone pilot industryDrones: Soaring High With The Drone Rules 2021 – Transport

September 25, 2021by helo-10

On 25 August 2021, the Indian Government introduced the Drone
Rules 2021 (New Rules) in a swift
response to the industry feedback in relation to onerous red tape
that was present in the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021
(Old Rules). By introducing the New Rules within
five months of introduction Old Rules, the Government impliedly
acknowledged that the Old Rules would deter the dynamic and
exceptional growth anticipated in the drone industry. The present
article analyses the New Rules which are being touted as a paradigm
change affecting the future of the drone industry.

Key features of the Drone Rules:

I. Application

The New Rules apply to (i) drones registered or operating in
India and (ii) persons who own, possess, engage in leasing,
operating, transferring or maintaining drones in India. The New
Rules shall not apply to drones belonging to or used by naval,
military and air forces. The New Rules further clarify that the
Aircraft Rules 1937 would not apply upon any Unmanned Aircraft
System (UAS) except for a UAS with maximum
all-up-weight of more than 500 kilograms.

II. Classification and Certification

The New Rules provide a detailed matrix for determining the
category1, sub-category2 and classification
based on maximum weight including payload3 of drones. Based on
this matrix, each drone operating in India is required to obtain a
type certification and unique identification number. Interestingly,
such type certification is not required for manufacturing or
importing drones in India.

III. Mandatory Safety Features

Rule 12 of the New Rules state that the Central Government may
in future prescribe certain mandatory safety features to be
installed on a UAS which may include, among others, features like
– (i) no permission – no take-off hardware and
firmware, (ii) real-time beacon communicating the drone’s
speed, altitude, and unique identification number, and (iii)
geo-fencing capability.

IV. Digital Sky Platform

In order to minimise human interface and delay attributable to
the bureaucratic procedures, the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation
devised what is called the digital sky platform. The digital sky
platform serves as a single-window for registration of drones and
generating approvals automatically. The nodal officers of State
Governments, Union Territory Administrations and law enforcement
agencies shall be provided direct access to the digital sky
platform. The New Rules require every drone to conform to certain
standards prescribed by the Quality Council of India for obtaining
an airworthiness certificate. The standards may promote the use of
indigenous technologies, designs, components and drones; and Indian
regional navigation satellite system namely Navigation with Indian
Constellation (NavIC).

V. Classification of Zones and Traffic Management

The New Rules categorise the airspace in green, yellow, and red
zones. Drones are allowed to operate in green zone without any
permission. However, for yellow and red zones, drones would require
permits to fly. The Central Government shall within sixty days of
the date of notification of New Rules, publish a policy framework
in respect of Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management System
(UTM System) on the digital sky platform.4 The
UTM System shall enable traffic management of drones through air,
ground, or space-based communication, navigation, and

VI. Reduced Compliance Requirements

The New Rules make a fundamental change in terms of reducing the
lengthy list of compliances as seen under the Old Rules. This
appears to be in response to the comments and criticism received by
various stakeholders across the industry. The New Rules under Rule
30 prescribe a nominal fee structure for the services rendered by
the Central Government. The fee for authorisation or renewal of
authorisation of remote pilot training organisation has been kept
at INR 1000. While the rest of the services are listed at a fee of
INR 100.5

VII. Remote Pilot License

The New Rules mandate that no individual other than a holder of
a valid remote pilot license enlisted on the digital sky platform
shall operate a UAS. A remote pilot license shall specifically set
out the details of the category, sub-category, and classification
of the UAS for which it is issued. However, (i) nano drones for all
uses, and (ii) micro drones for non-commercial use are exempted
from the requirement of a remote pilot license.6

VIII. Research, Development, and Testing

The New Rules exempt certain persons engaged in research,
development and testing of UAS’ from the requirements of a type
certificate, unique identification number, prior permission and
remote pilot licence for operating UAS. However, the research
activities envisaged under the New Rules must be conducted in a
green zone or an open area under such person’s control.7

XI. Offences, Classification and Compounding

The New Rules prescribe penalties for offences committed in
contravention of the provisions set out in the New Rules. The
offences range from unauthorised operation of UAS to carrying arms
and ammunitions on UAS. The procedure for compounding the offences
and levying penalty has been delineated under Rules 49 and 50 of
the New Rules.8


The rapid response to industry feedback and timing of the New
Rules demonstrates the Government’s commitment to fostering the
untapped potential of drone technology.

The New Rules usher in ease of regulation. The Government has
slashed the number of forms to be filled to operate a drone to one
fifth of the number under the Old Rules and reduced the fee
structure for its services to a nominal level.9 The New Rules are
based on a “premise of trust, self-certification and
non-intrusive monitoring”. They focus on developing drone
corridors for cargo deliveries and setting up of a drone promotion
council. Drone operations in green zones require no permission.

With a clear focus on scaling up this industry, the cabinet has
recently approved an INR 1.2 billion production linked incentive
scheme for drones and drone production. The scheme is expected to
bring fresh investments of over INR 5 billion and incremental
production of INR 1.5 billion. This is one more baby step towards
making India a global drone hub by 2030.

Interestingly, this commitment has not been derailed by
unfortunate attacks or potential national security risks. In fact,
there is lack of consistency between yellow zone under the New
Rules and bird activity sterile zone mandated by ICAO. Yellow zones
(which require ATC clearance) have been reduced drastically from 45
km to 12 km from the airport perimeter freeing up more space for
green zones. This is peculiar and may be step too far considering
that the bird activity sterile zone is mandated by ICAO at 13 km in
radius of aerodrome reference point. It is yet to be seem how
growing drone usage and potential misuse (from a national security
and public order perspective) will be balanced.

However, unlike the Old Rules, there is no reference of
intrusion of individual’s privacy due to extensive use of drone
technologies. Notably, other jurisdictions like EU have dealt with
this issue by requiring impact assessment similar to the General
Data Protection Regulation before operation. The legislative
framework for data protection and privacy is at a nascent stage in
India with the proposed bill on this subject still being
deliberated by the Joint Parliamentary Committee. It is likely that
this aspect will develop in the future and aspects of privacy will
be addressed by incorporating appropriate references to data
protection and privacy laws.


1. Rule
4(1) of the Drone Rules 2021. These include three broad categories:
(i) aeroplane, (ii) rotorcraft and (iii) hybrid unmanned aircraft

2. Rule 4
(2) of the Drone Rules 2021. These include three sub-categories:
(i) remotely piloted aircraft system, (ii) model remotely piloted
aircraft system and (iii) autonomous unmanned aircraft

3. Rule 5
of the Drone Rules 2021. These include: (i) nano (less than or
equal to 250 grams), (ii) micro (more than 250 g but less than or
equal to 2 kg), (iii) small (more than 2 kg but less than or equal
to 25 kg), (iv) medium (more than 25 kg but less than or equal to
150 kg), and (v) large (greater than 150 kg).

4. Rule
27 of the Drone Rules 2021.

5. Rule
46 of the Drone Rules 2021.

6. Part
VI of the Drone Rules 2021.

7. Rule
42 of the Drone Rules 2021.

8. Rule
49 of the Drone Rules 2021.

9. The
number of forms prescribed in the New Rules has been reduced from
25 (twenty-five) to 5 (five) and fee categories have been reduced
from 72 (seventy-two) to 4 (four).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.


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