The Central Government of India has recently notified the Drone Rules, 2021 (“Rules”) in the Gazette of India on August 25, 2021. Shortly after this notification, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued a press release, which highlighted the foremost key feature as it being based on “trust, self-certification and non-intrusive monitoring”. Going forward, the industry & businesses that utilize the drones, may expect it be easier and cheaper to operate the drone in India than ever before.
Deadline of December 30, 2021 – Anyone who owns the unmanned aircraft system (“UAS”), whether manufactured in or imported into India on or before November 30th 2021 has to obtain the unique identification number (“UIN”) within 30 days from November 30th, 2021. This can be done by making an application on Form D-2 along with the requisite details and the fee, which is available on the Digital Sky Platform (“D-Sky Platform”).
Key takeaways of the Drone Rules, 2021
- Self-Certification- A D-Sky Platform, has been developed and hosted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and expected to be user-friendly single window system. The manufacturers/operators/importers of drone may apply to register and generate the UIN of a drone on the D-Sky Platform for their UAS.
- Abolition of various approvals- The government has done away with the requirement for certain approvals, such as Unique Authorisation Number, Unique Prototye Identification Number, Certificate of manufacturing, Certificate of conformance, Certificate of maintenance etc.
- Fewer Forms, Processes- The number of forms, as compared to those contained in the erstwhile Unmanned Aircraft System Rules (“UAS Rules”) on the subject, have been reduced from 25 to 5. This will lead to a faster and less process driven system.
- Cheap- The new rules prescribe payment of substantially reduced fee and only for four services as opposed to the erstwhile UAS Rules, which entailed a fee payment for 72 different eventualities.
- Increase in Reach- The airspace has been divided into three zones, namely, green, red & yellow zones and the map has already been uploaded and can be accessed here. The new Rules have allowed access to the green zones without requiring permission for every drone flight. The rules call for seeking prior permission for operating in the red or yellow zone. The government has also reduced the yellow zone from 45 km to 12 km from the perimeter of an operational airport, which allows wider access.
- Remote Pilot Licence not required in certain cases- Remote pilot licence for operating nano drone and micro drones (when used for non-commercial purpose) is not required.
- Increase in scope of rules- These rules regulate drone weighing up to 500 kgs as opposed to the previously covered 300 kgs. Commercial activities such as drone taxis, drone delivery, etc. can be operated as per these rules. The drones weighing more than 500 kg will continue to be governed under the Aircraft Rules, 1937.
- Exemption from type certificate – As per the Rules, type certificate is not required for manufacturing or importing the UAS. For operating the UAS, two categories are exempted i.e. a nano UAS and a model remotely piloted aircraft system.
- Maximum penalty reduced- The maximum amount of penalty under the UAS Rules was compoundable and differed for individuals and the organizations of varying sizes. Under the present Rules, a penalty of no more than INR. One Lakh (appox. USD 1350) can be imposed.
- Simplified process for transfer and deregistration of drones- An UAS can now be transferred to another person or deregistered. In case of transfer, the Form D-3 must also contain the requisite details of transferor, transferee, and UIN of the UAS.
As reported here and here, the global market intelligence and advisory firm BIS Research predicts that the global drone market, which is currently dominated by US, China and Israel, will touch USD28.47 billion this year. India will comprise of about 4.25 per cent of that, which is expected to reach USD 887- $1.21 billion in 2021.
The new Rules target and continue their focus on easing the conduct of business in the drone industry. The Government of India (“GOI”) remains focused on supporting, encouraging and promoting this industry, possibly encouraged by its own first-hand experiences. Toth the Central and the State governments in India have, either independently or in public-private partnership, used the drones for implementing varying government schemes and programs. Some such examples include delivery of Covid 19 related medicines, conducting surveys for maps, mining sectors, etc. If global trends and the government’s participation is an indication, the drone industry can be seen soaring through the sky