After junking a contentious drone policy that made industry compliance virtually impossible, India has published new “Drone Rules, 2021” with an aim to become a “global drone hub” by 2030.
Following up on the draft policy released earlier this summer, the new drone rules are devised on the premise of trust, self-certification, and non-intrusive monitoring. According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, these liberalized Drone Rules, 2021 will usher in an era of “super-normal growth” while balancing safety and security considerations.
Acknowledging that drones have the potential to offer tremendous benefits to almost all sectors of the economy, the government says it foresees the industry to drive employment and economic growth. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to say:
Here’s all you need to know about India’s new 2021 drone rules:
Easier processes, reduced fees
Several layers of approvals have been removed, including the requirement for a unique authorization number, unique prototype identification number, certificate of manufacturing and airworthiness, certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permits, authorization of R&D organization, student remote pilot license, remote pilot instructor authorization, drone port authorization, etc.
At the same time, the number of forms has been reduced from 25 to five, while the types of fees have been brought down from 72 to four.
It’s worth noting that the quantum of the fee has also been reduced 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 INR 3,000 (for large drones) to INR 100 for all categories of drones; and is valid for 10 years. In the same vein, the maximum penalty for violations has also been reduced to INR 100,000.
Digital Sky online platform for drone use approvals, airspace maps
The government has also notified its intention to develop Digital Sky online platform a user-friendly single-window system, assuring minimal human interface.
Meanwhile, MoCA is on track to display an interactive airspace map with green, yellow, and red zones on the Digital Sky platform before September end.
No permission will be required for operating drones in green zones. A green zone is identified as airspace up to a vertical distance of 400 feet 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 located between a lateral distance of 8 and 12 kilometers from the perimeter of an operational airport. Yellow zones have also been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter.
Encouragement to hobbyists, foreign firms, R&D entities
Further, to encourage recreational flying, the government has removed the remote pilot license requirement for nano drones as well as non-commercial micro drones. Similarly, now there is no requirement for security clearance before issuance of any registration or license either.
Foreign investment is also bring encouraged through the removal of restrictions on foreign ownership in Indian drone companies. The import of drones, meanwhile, will be regulated by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade instead of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) as was required in the old policy.
R&D organizations operating drones in their own or rented premises, located in a green zone, are being exempted from the requirements of a Type Certificate, unique identification number, and remote pilot license.
Other key features in India Drone Rules, 2021
- Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also. Similarly, drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
- DGCA shall prescribe drone training requirements, oversee drone schools and provide pilot licenses online.
- Remote pilot license to be issued within 15 days of pilot receiving the remote pilot certificate from the authorized drone school through the Digital Sky platform.
- Testing of drones for issuance of Type Certificate to be carried out by Quality Council of India or authorized testing entities.
- Type Certificate 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 number.
- 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.
- Easier process specified for transfer and deregistration of drones through the Digital Sky platform.
- Drones present in India on or before November 30, 2021, to be issued a unique identification number through the Digital Sky platform provided 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 required unless there is a significant departure from the prescribed procedures.
- Safety features like “No Permission, No Takeoff” (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geofencing, etc., to be notified in the future. A 6-month lead time will be provided to the industry for compliance.
- Drone Promotion Council to be set up by the government with participation from academia, startups and other stakeholders to facilitate a growth-oriented regulatory regime.
The complete list of Drone Rules, 2021, notified by the Government of India can be found here.