The government is making it easier for drone manufacturers, operators and startups to boost adoption of drones across India. It has repealed the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Rules, 2021 and has introduced “liberalised Drone Rules, 2021”. The government feels that India has the potential to be a global drone hub by 2030. While startups are already gearing up to use drones for delivering food and medicines, it can also be beneficial for agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance and law enforcement. Here’s what’s changing.
What is the one big change for drones in India
Startups and drone operators will no longer have to go through complex approval processes and the entire system is now based on self-certification and non-intrusive monitoring. The Digital sky website will be used for all approvals, certifications, etc and most permissions will be self-generated. All details about drones will be available on the Digital sky website.
Where can you fly drones without any permissions
Digital sky website will now have an interactive airspace map. The map will come with green, yellow and red zones.
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 metre that has not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone in the airspace map; and the airspace upto a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 metre above the area located between a lateral distance of 8 and 12 kilometre from the perimeter of an operational airport. On the other hand, the yellow zone is reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter.
How can you learn to be a drone pilot
If you wish to be a drone pilot then you should be trained from a training centre authorised by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). You need to have proper documents and will have to register as a “Remote Pilot” to obtain your “Pilot Identification number” and Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP). These details are available on the Digital sky website.
The required eligibility criterias are basic. You need to be at least 18 years of age and pass 10th Standard (in English) before you can join any training institute to become a drone pilot.
What are the categories of drones in India
There are five categories of drones in India:
Nano: Less than or equal to 250 grams.
Micro: Greater than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 kg.
Small: Greater than 2 kg and less than or equal to 25 kg.
Medium: Greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 kg.
Large: Greater than 150 kg.
Who needs permissions to fly drones and who doesn’t
Nano drones (less than 250 gm) are exempted from obtaining UIN and UAOP. Also, no remote pilot licence is required for micro drones (for non-commercial use). Also, as per the new rules, there is no requirement for security clearance before issuance of any registration or licence. You need to ensure that you do not fly it beyond 50 ft (15m) AGL. All other drone operations in India require UIN and UAOP.
“No requirement of Type Certificate, unique identification number and remote pilot licence by R&D entities operating drones in own or rented premises, located in a green zone,” said the government. Remote pilot licence will be issued by DGCA within 15 days of pilot receiving the remote pilot certificate from the authorised drone school through the digital sky platform.
How will the new rules affect drones that already being used in India
Drones that are present in India on or before 30 November 2021 will 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. As per the new rules, 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.
What about drone delivery
The government said that drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries. “Safety and security features like ‘No permission – no takeoff’ (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geo-fencing etc. to be notified in future. A six-month lead time will be provided to the industry for compliance,” it said.
What approvals and certifications have been removed for drones in India
The government has removed many approval certificates required for flying drones like 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 permit, authorisation of R&D organisation, student remote pilot licence, remote pilot instructor authorisation, drone port authorisation etc.
What are the changes in fees and approvals
The number of approval forms is reduced from 25 to 5 and the types of fee reduced from 72 to 4. The fee for a remote pilot license fee has been reduced from Rs 3000 (for large drones) to Rs 100 for all categories of drones and is valid for 10 years.
What about importing drones from other countries
The import of drones to be regulated by DGFT. However, there’s no restriction on foreign ownership in Indian drone companies. Also, the requirement of import clearance from DGCA is now abolished. “Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also,” said the government.