drone pilot industryThe Drone Rules 2021 – Giving Wings To The Drone Industry In India – Transport

September 8, 2021by helo-10


On 25 August 2021, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Ministry)
notified the Drone Rules 2021 (Drone Rules). The Drone Rules
supersede the erstwhile Unmanned Aircraft System Rules 2021 (UAS
Rules) and have significantly reduced the approvals, compliance
requirements and entry barriers for drone operators in India.


The Drone Rules have a broad scope of application as it applies
to (i) all persons owning or possessing, or engaged in leasing,
operating, transferring or maintaining unmanned aircraft systems
(UAS) in India, (ii) all UAS registered in India, and (iii) all UAS
operated for the time being, in or over India. However, the Drone
Rules do not regulate UAS belonging to, or used by, the naval,
military or air forces of the Union of India. The UAS Rules also
stipulate that the Aircraft Rules 1937 shall not apply to UAS,
except for UAS with maximum all-up-weight of more than 500

Key highlights of the Drone Rules

Classification/ Categorization

The UAS have been classified into three categories: aeroplanes,
rotorcrafts and hybrid UAS, which have been sub-categorised into
remotely piloted aircraft system, model remotely piloted aircraft
system, and autonomous UAS. There is a further sub-classification
based on ‘maximum all-up-weight’ including payload.


A type certificate (as may be mandated for different types of
UAS) is mandatory to operate UAS in India, which can be obtained by
making an application on the digital sky platform (Digital Sky
Platform) along with requisite fee and details. The Drone Rules
also propose acceptance of approvals granted by certain foreign

Mandatory safety features

The Drone Rules create an avenue to require owners of UAS to
mandatorily install certain safety features in future, such as
‘No Permission – No Take off’ hardware and firmware, real
time tracking beacons, geo-fencing capabilities, etc.

Registration of drones

UAS must be registered on the Digital Sky Platform and must
possess a unique identification number (UIN). All applications are
required to be made on the Digital Sky Platform along with
requisite fee and details. Further, transfer of UAS to another
person is permitted by providing requisite details of the
transferor, transferee, UIN number on the Digital Sky Platform,
along with the requisite fee. There are steps that are required to
be undertaken in case of permanent loss or damage of UAS by the
person in whose name the UAS is registered.

Operation of drones

Designated zones

The Drone Rules refer to classification of the airspace into
three colour-coded zones, viz. green zone, yellow zone, and red
zone. Prior permission is required for UAS operations in the red
and yellow zone.

Interactive airspace maps

For UAS operations, an airspace map will be published by the
Central Government segregating the entire airspace of India into
red zone, yellow zone and green zone, with a horizontal resolution
equal to or finer than 10 meters. Interactive nature of these maps
will enable the UAS pilots to plot their proposed flight plan to
identify the zone within which it falls in order to assess whether
they need to obtain prior approval.

Pre-flight verification

Due to the regular updates made to the airspace maps, a remote
pilot is required to mandatorily verify the Digital Sky Platform
for any notification or restriction applicable to UAS

Access to data

The Digital Sky Platform may be directly accessed by the nodal
officers of State Governments, Union Territory Administrations and
law enforcement agencies. In order words, all the data uploaded on
the Digital Sky Platform, may be accessed by the relevant

Safety provisions

UAS operations must be carried out in a way that does not
endanger the safety and security of any person or property.
Additionally, there are restrictions on carrying certain types of
goods (e.g. arms, ammunition, explosives etc.) and requirement to
report accidents within 48 hours. Further, UAS operators are not
permitted to violate the right of way of a manned aircraft and are
required to remain clear of all manned aircrafts.

Remote pilot license

Any person operating UAS must hold a valid remote pilot license
(except for operating certain categories of drones). The applicant
for a remote pilot license must meet the eligibility criteria,
complete the required training specified for the relevant UAS and
clear the tests conducted by an authorised remote pilot training

Exemptions for research, development and testing

The Drone Rules provide for certain exemptions from the
applicability of the above provisions for the purposes of research,
development and testing. However, such UAS operations can only take
place within a green zone and within the premises of the person
where such research, development and testing are being carried out
or within an open area in a green zone under such person’s


The provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 and its rules will
apply to the third party insurance of UAS (except for nano UAS) and
compensation in case of damage to life or property caused by such

Consequences and penalties

The Drone Rules prescribe certain consequences and penalties for
contravention of its provisions. Contravention of provisions such
as obtaining prior permission for flying over yellow zone and red
zone, carriage of arms, ammunitions, explosives, etc., are
cognizable and non-compoundable offences. In certain cases, any
license, certificate, authorisation or approval granted under the
Drone Rules may also be cancelled or suspended.


The notification of the Drone Rules ‘built on the
premise of trust, self-certification, and non-intrusive
‘ is a landmark moment for the drone sector in
India. The establishment of the Digital Sky Platform is a
progressive step towards ensuring paperless approvals in this
digital era, and it proposes to significantly water down the heavy
compliance burdens, thereby encouraging start-ups to explore
business opportunities in this sector. The exemptions for research
as well as the proposal to set up an Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Promotion Council, provides a considerable boost to the drone
businesses operating in India.

However, certain regulatory concerns remain which the Drone
Rules do not provide clarity on. While the erstwhile UAS Rules
entrusted the responsibility on an authorised drone operator to
ensure the privacy of a person and its property during
‘, the current Drone Rules do not have a similar
provision. Further, the Drone Rules neither expressly prohibit
drone operations over private properties nor stipulate special
permissions including consent of the landowners for such
operations. Perhaps the intended exclusion of privacy related
provisions is hinting towards the forthcoming data protection law
which may be likely to address any related privacy and security
concerns. While the notification of these Drone Rules is certainly
a big leap, it would be interesting to see how the new framework
gives shape to the future of the drone industry in India.

The content of this document do not necessarily reflect the
views/position of Khaitan & Co but remain solely those of the
author(s). For any further queries or follow up please contact
Khaitan & Co at [email protected]

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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.


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