Drone Certification TestThe Drone Rules, 2021: An Unmanned Flight Into Unchartered Territory – Transport

September 21, 2021by helo-10
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Introduction

The Central Government on 25th August 2021 has promulgated
liberalised ‘The Drone Rules, 2021′ (“the
Rules”)
,1 replacing the erstwhile Unmanned
Aircraft System Rules 2021 (“Prior
Rules”)
, to regulate the use and operation of Drones
or Unmanned Aerial System (“UAS”) in
India. The Rules are based on the principles of “trust,
self-certification and non-intrusive monitoring” by reducing
the extent of regulatory control. The strict requirements under the
Prior Rules like certificate of conformation, certificate of
maintenance, operator permits, import clearance, authorization of
R&D etc., have been abolished under the Rules. This is an
important landmark in the Indian Legal system, since this may pave
way for further laws based on the principle of self-regulation.

Key Highlights

  • The aim of the Rules is to create a ‘digital sky
    platform’ (“the Platform”) which is
    a business-friendly single-window online system, with minimum human
    interference, where most of the permissions will be
    self-generated.

  • The Rules have reduced the red-tape involved in the process of
    seeking compliance:

    • Number of forms have been reduced from 25 to 5.

    • The types of fee have been reduced from 72 to 4.

    • Quantum of fee has been reduced to nominal levels and delinked
      with size of drone. For instance, the fee for a remote pilot
      license fee has been reduced from INR 3000 (for large drone) to INR
      100 for all categories of drones; and is valid for 10 years.

    • Easier process is specified for transfer and deregistration of
      drones through the digital sky platform.

    • Nano and model drones (made for research or recreation
      purposes) are exempt from type certification.


  • Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 has been increased
    from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also.

  • Type Certificate is 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.

  • Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.

Summary of provisions:

1. Scope of Operation

The Rules cover all persons owning or possessing, or engaged in
leasing, operating, transferring or maintaining a drone in India
and all drones that are registered in India or being operated for
the time being, in or over India.2 It seeks to regulate
only the civilian usage of Drones and does not apply to drones used
by the naval, military or air forces of the Union.3

2. Digital sky platform

The Rules have established an online platform hosted by the
Directorate General of Civil Aviation
(“DGCA”), for the management of various
drone-related activities in India.4 The Platform seeks
to provide a single-window online system, where most of the
permissions of Drones can be generated by individuals, without any
human intervention.

3. Definition and Classification of Drones

Drone has been defined as an unmanned aircraft
system5 (“UAS”), that can operate autonomously
or can be operated remotely without a pilot on board;6
The maximum all-up-weight for a drone is 500 Kilograms.

Drones have been classified based upon the maximum all-up weight
(not more than 500 kilograms7) including payload as
under –

(a) Nano drone: Less than or equal to 250 grams;

(b) Micro drone: Greater than 250 grams and less than or equal
to 2 kilograms;

(c) Small drone: Greater than 2 kilograms and less than or equal
to 25 kilograms;

(d) Medium drone: Greater than 25 kilograms and less than or
equal to 150 kilograms; and

(e) Large drone: Greater than 150 kilograms.8

In case, the weight is more than 500 kilograms, the provisions
of the Aircraft Rules, 1937 shall apply instead of the Drone
Rules.9 This classification of drones has important
consequences since they will govern the extent of regulatory
compliance and permissions required for usage.

4. Drone Certification

The Rules mandate the requirement of obtaining a type
certificate, from the Director General

(“DG”)

or any entity authorised by DG, on the recommendation of the
Quality Council of India or an authorised testing
entity10, to operate the drone.11

However, a type certificate is not required for:

a) Manufacturing or importing a UAS.

b) operating a model remotely piloted aircraft system or a nano
UAS.12

In order to obtain certification of Drone, a person needs to
apply on the Platform (Form D-1), with particulars of applicant,
prescribed fee and a prototype of the drone.13 The
proposal is then examined by the Quality Council of India
(“QCI”) or an authorised testing entity.
The test report is then submitted along with its recommendations to
the DG within sixty days from the date of receipt of the
application, who on being satisfied with the recommendations, shall
issue to the applicant a type certificate for the specific type of
drone within fifteen days of receiving such test
report.14

The drone needs to comply with certain mandatory safety
features, which will be notified by the Central Government later.
The Rules indicatively provide for the following safety features,
which may be included by the Central Government:

(a) ‘No Permission – No Takeoff’
(“NPNT”) hardware and firmware;

(b) Real-time tracking beacon that communicates the drone’s
location, altitude, speed and unique identification number; and

(c) Geo-fencing capability.15

The Rules provide a six-month period for compliance from the
date of notification of the safety features by the Central
Government.16

5. Drone Registration

In addition to Drone Certification, the Rules mandate the
registration of individual drones on the Platform and obtaining a
Unique Identification Number (“UIN”)17. UIN
can be generated by completing Form D-218 on the
Platform, along with the prescribed fee19 and requisite
details including the unique number of the type certificate to
which such UAS conforms. The Rules mandate a person, who owns a
drone, manufactured in India or imported into India on or before
the 30th day of November 2021, to make within thirty-one
days falling after the said date, an application for a
UIN.20

Each UIN of a drone shall be linked to the unique serial number
provided by the manufacturer and the unique serial numbers of its
flight control module and ground control station.21 The
Rules have also prescribed procedures for the transfer22
and Deregistration of Drones.23

6. Drone Operations

The Rules give power to the Central Government to segregated the
entire airspace of India into 3 zones- Red, Yellow and Green
zones.24 The Central Government can update the airspace
map on the Platform for drone operations from time to time to
change the status of an area from one zone to another. However,
such change shall not come into effect before expiry seven days
after the date of such update.25

The three zones have been defined as follows:

Green Zone (Permissible Zone)

  1. the airspace of defined dimensions above the land areas or
    territorial waters of India, upto a vertical distance of 400 feet
    or 120 metres that has not been designated as a red zone or yellow
    zone in the airspace map for UAS operations; and

  2. the airspace upto a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 metres
    above the area located between a lateral distance of 8 kilometre
    and 12 kilometres from the perimeter of an operational
    airport.

Yellow zone (Intermediate zone)

  1. The airspace of defined dimensions above the land areas or
    territorial waters of India within which UAS operations are
    restricted and shall require permission from the concerned air
    traffic control authority.

The airspace above 400 feet or 120 metres in the designated
green zone and the airspace above 200 feet or 60 metres in the area
located between the lateral distance of 8 kilometres and 12
kilometres from the perimeter of an operational airport.

Red Zone (No-Fly Zone)

The airspace of defined dimensions, above the land areas or
territorial waters of India, or any installation or notified port
limits specified by the Central Government beyond the territorial
waters of India, within which UAS operations shall be permitted
only by the Central Government. 26

The Rules prohibit the operation of a drone in a red zone or
yellow zone without prior permission. However, no such provision is
required in the Green Zone.27

The airspace map segregating the airspace of India into the
aforementioned zones will be published on the Platform by the
Central Government.28 Interestingly, airspace map shall
be programmatically accessible through a machine-readable
Application Programming Interface
(“API”) and interactive so that drone
pilots will be able to plot their proposed flight plan and easily
identify the zone(s) within which it falls so as to assess whether
or not they need to make an application for prior
approval.29 It is mandatory for a drone pilot, to check
the Platform before commencing a drone operation for any
restriction applicable to drone operations in the intended area of
operation. 30

The Rules also create a self-reporting mechanism, which mandates
the reporting of an accident involving the drones, within 48 hours
to the DG through the Platform.31 An accident has been
defined as any incident associated with the operation of a UAS in
which a person is fatally or seriously injured or where the
unmanned aircraft system sustains significant damage or goes
missing or is completely inaccessible.32

7. Remote Pilot License

Notably, the Rules restrict the operation of a drone by any
person other than a holder of a valid Remote Pilot Licence (RPL)
enlisted on the Platform.33 An RPL is not required for a
person operating a nano drone34 or operating a micro
drone for non-commercial purposes.35

In order to be eligible for the RPL the following criteria need
to be fulfilled:

(a) not less than eighteen years of age and not more than sixty
five years of age;

(b) have passed class tenth or its equivalent examination from a
recognised Board;

(c) have completed the training prescribed by the DG for the
applicable class of remote pilot licence from an authorised remote
pilot training organisation.36

If a person, fulfils the aforementioned criteria, he can obtain
an RPL after completing the training specified by the DG for such
category, sub-category or class of UAS for which the person
requires an RPL and passing the tests conducted by the authorised
remote pilot training organisation.37 Within 7 days of
passing the test, the person can make an application on form D-4
through the Platform.38 The RPL shall be valid for a
period of 10 years after which it can be renewed
again.39 The Rules also require the holder of RPL to
undergo such refresher course as may be specified by the DG on the
Platform from time to time.

8. Insurance

The Rules require third party insurance of drones for
compensation in case of damage to life and/or property caused by a
UAS/drone. Insurance cover has to be taken in accordance with Motor
Vehicles Act, 1988 and rules made thereunder, which shall apply
mutatis mutandis. 40

9. Offences & Penalties

Any contravention of the Rules is a punishable offence under the
Rules.41 However, the Rules have created a defence, in
case any contravention or failure to comply with the Rules is
proved to have been caused due to factors or circumstances, such as
the stress of weather or other unavoidable cause or circumstances,
beyond the control of such person or without his knowledge or
fault.42

In addition to this, any contravention may attract a penalty of
up to a maximum of one lakh rupees under Section 10A Aircraft Act,
1934.43 Furthermore, the Rules also provide for
cancellation or suspension of any licence, certificate,
authorisation or approval granted under these Rules by the DG in
case of contravention of the Rules.44

Conclusion

The Rules are one of a kind in Indian law and are a fine blend
between regulation and liberalisation. They are aided by the
digital sky platform, which provides for a one-stop-shop to carry
out all compliances under the Rules, thereby reducing the red tape
in regulation and obtaining permissions/licenses. This will thus
provide a huge boost to innovation and business in India,
especially to the logistics industry. However, the extent of
success of this experiment of Indian Law with self-regulation and
non-intrusive monitoring will depend on effective airspace mapping
with regular updates and functionality of the Platform, which will
remain the responsibility of the Government.

Footnotes

1.
https://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2021/229221.pdf

2. Rule 2(1)

3. Rule 2(3)

4. Rule 3(g)

5. Rule 3(i)

6. Rule 3(zb)

7. Rule 2(2)

8. Rule 5

9. Rule 2(2)

10. Rule 8

11. Rule 6

12. Rule 13

13. Rule 9(1)

14. Rules 9(2) and 9(3)

15. Rule 12(1)

16. Rule 12(2)

17. Rule 14(1)

18. Rule 15(1)

19. Rule 46

20. Rule 16(1)

21. Rule 15(3)

22. Rule 17

23. Rule 18

24. Rule 19

25. Rule 23

26. Rule 2(l)

27. Rule 22

28. Rule 19

29. Rule 21

30. Rule 20

31. Rule 30

32. Rule 3(b)

33. Rule 31

34. Rule 36(a)

35. Rule 36(b)

36. Rule 33

37. Rule 34(1)

38. Rule 34(2)

39. Rule 35

40. Rule 44

41. Rule 49(1)

42. Rule 49(3)

43. Rule 50

44. Rule 53

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.



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