Highlights of the new drone policy notified by the government
The Ministry of Civil Aviation notified the new Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Rules, 2021 on 26 August 2021. The new rules override the older UAS Rules notified by the ministry earlier this year in March. The rules notified by the government in March were criticised as being restrictive.
A draft version of the new UAS Rules were published by the government in July. The main highlights of the new liberalised drone rules are:
Reduction in number of approvals required
The new rules drastically reduce the number of approvals, certificates and compliances required to operate drones. The number forms required have been reduced from 25 to five and the types of fees have also been reduced from 72 to four, with amount of fees being reduced to nominal rates delinked from the size of the drones.
For example, the fee for a remote pilot license has been reduced from Rs 3,000 (for large drone) to Rs 100 for all categories of drones; and is valid for 10 years.
Some of the approvals which have been abolished include Unique authorisation number, certificate of manufacturing and airworthiness, certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, operator permit, authorisation of R&D organisation, student remote pilot licence, remote pilot instructor authorisation, drone port authorisation, etc.
Other relaxations under the new rules include the removal of requirement of remote pilot licence required for micro drones (for non-commercial use) and nano drones and requirement for security clearance before issuance of any registration or licence.
The rules also ease restrictions for Research and Development (R&D) entities by removing the requirement of type certificate, Unique Identification Number (UIN) and remote pilot licence by R&D entities operating drones in own or rented premises, located in a green zone.
No permission will be 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 up to a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 metre above the area located between a lateral distance of eight and 12 kilometre from the perimeter of an operational airport. Yellow zone has been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter.
An interactive airspace map with green, yellow and red zones would be displayed on the digital sky platform.
Digital Sky Platform
It is an online portal set up by the Ministry of Civil Aviation for enabling flights permission digitally and managing Unmanned Aircraft operations and traffic. Manufacturers and importers will be able to generate their drones’ UIN on the platform through the self-certification route. Drones present in India on or before 30 November 2021 will be issued a UIN through the platform if they fulfil certain conditions. The new rules also provide for an easier process for transfer and deregistration of drones through the platform.
Role of DCGA
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will prescribe drone training requirements, oversee drone schools and provide pilot licences online. 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. 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 will be required unless there is a significant departure from the prescribed procedures.
Testing of drones for issuance of Type Certificate will be carried out by Quality Council of India or authorised testing entities. Moreover, Type Certificate will be required only when a drone is to be operated in India. Importing and manufacturing drones purely for exports would be exempted from type certification and UIN. Nano and model drones (made for research or recreation purposes) are exempt from type certification.
Measures to incentivise the industry
It reduces the maximum penalty to Rs one lakh. They also remove restrictions on foreign ownership in Indian drone companies and abolishes the need for import clearance from DCGA.
The rules state that a Drone Promotion Council would be set up by Government with participation from academia, start-ups and other stakeholders to facilitate a growth-oriented regulatory regime. It also states that drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
In future, a six-month lead time will be provided to the industry for compliance.
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