Recently, the central government notified the new Drone Rules 2021, giving significant clearances and liberalising procedures for drone attainment and usage. Compared to the previous rules, Drone Rules 2021 have abolished several requirements and approvals to encourage the growth of India’s drone industry.
Prior to this, the framework required drone operators and manufacturers to fill 25 forms, which are now reduced to five, and the total number of fees for drone operations has been reduced from 72 to four. With the new rules in place, security clearance and extensive approvals comprising unique authorisation number, operator permits, drone port authorisation, among others are no longer required.
Industry players in the drone market are exploring new opportunities, which will enhance their business growth. “The current framework is what it should have been in the beginning so it’s a very welcome change. I think the basic principle that it operates on is the premise of trust, self -certification, and non-intrusive monitoring,” says Rahul Sankhe, President and Co-founder at SenseHawk, in a panel discussion with YourStory’s Daily Dispatch.
Swarup Mavanoor and Rahul Sankhe, Founders, SenseHawk
Echoing the same thought, Swapnik Jakkampuddi, Co-founder, Skye Air Mobility recalls the time-consuming nature of security clearances required for drones, with the earlier framework for drone operations. The new rules will accelerate the procurement and operating process for drone operators.
Earlier this year, Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya Scindia, announced that the government is aiming to make India a global drone hub by 2030. The industry is expected to grow exponentially and facilitate job creation across various sectors.
According to PwC’s January 2020 report, the drone market in India is expected to hit $885 million in 2021. Owing to the projected increase in demand, India is slated to become a $1.81 billion drone market by FY26. The rollout of the new rules will impact private as well as commercial players in the drone ecosystem.
Drones can be used in more business categories
The government is already in the process of setting up a Digital Sky Platform, which will be a singular point for all clearances. The platform will be integrated with an interactive airspace map that will direct drone operators to areas they are allowed to fly in.
With this, Swapnik says that it will be easier to secure permissions, thus increasing the use cases of drones. This will also translate in demand for drones, he adds, which makes it a prudent investment for a manufacturer or provider of services business. Skye Air Mobility provides drone delivery technology services across various sectors that include the government, private sector, NGOs, among others.
Anticipated challenges for drone operators
Hyperlocal delivery startup Dunzo is already experimenting with drone deliveries. The Google-backed delivery startup will be experimenting with Below Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone delivery of medicines in Telangana.
“We will be conducting experimental drone trials. The idea is to test how drones can be used to deliver medicines or relief goods in far off lands wherein accessibility from the road or any other mode of transport is either time consuming or difficult,” says Prateek Dewan, Lead, Public Policy and Community Impact, Dunzo.
In the eventuality of moving to commercial deliveries of essential items, he adds, the first question that arises is whether the drones will deliver to a household or a dedicated location for drone deliveries.
While drone deliveries will be a category for, it also aims to prioritise meeting the aspirations of their existing delivery partners. The new drone rules also streamline the process of obtaining pilot licenses, which is a factor considered by Dunzo to plan to train delivery partners to be drone pilots.
While the new rules are a big push for the drone industry in India, companies need to weigh the challenge associated with drone misuse. Every technology has miscreants in play and in the context of drones, it is usually attacks or illegal surveillance.
, a SaaS platform, has been using data from drones to gather insights on their solar projects. Commenting on the security measures taken by the company, Rahul says that the security problem can only be solved by ensuring that there are anti-drone defence systems at critical installations. He also expects the new drone rules to provide a detailed framework for two broad areas – No Permission, No Takeoff (NPNT) compliance mechanism and BVLOS.
The consensus of the panel was to prioritise safety, use technology to safeguard the use of drones, and explore the potential of drone operation in various verticals.
Implementation of the new rules is ongoing and to balance it out, the framework is expected to eventually account for the privacy concerns and other challenges surrounding drones.
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