The new Drone Rules 2021, will apply to (a) anybody who owns, possesses, or is involved in the leasing, exporting, transferring, or maintaining an unmanned aircraft system in India; (b) all unmanned aircraft systems that are registered in India; and (c) all unmanned aircraft systems that are already operating in or above India [Rule 2 (1)].
In case of an unmanned aircraft system with maximum all-up-weight more than 500 kilogram, the provisions of the Aircraft Rules, 1937 shall apply [Rule 2 (2)]. These Drone Rules widen the scope of applicability, as the earlier legal regime governed drones only up to 300 kilogram.
Further, as per the Drone Rules, “drone” means an unmanned aircraft system, which is an aircraft that can operate autonomously or can be operated remotely without a pilot on board [Rule 3 (i) and (zb)]. Unmanned aircraft systems have also been divided into five weight categories based upon the maximum all-up weight (including payload) under these Drone Rules: nano (less than or equal to 250 grams), micro (more than 250 g but less than or equal to 2 kg), small (more than 2 kg but less than or equal to 25 kg), medium (more than 25 kg but less than or equal to 150 kg), and large (greater than 150 kg) [Rule 5].
This categorisation has been made to grant certain exemptions to nano and micro drones and for making it easier to operate these kinds of drones. For example, no type certificate shall be required for operating a nano drone [Rule 13(2)]. Further, a person does not require a remote pilot license to operate: (i) a nano drone; and (ii) a micro drone for non-commercial purposes [Rule 36]. Further, a nano drone may be operated without third party insurance [Rule 44].