The Ministry of Civil Aviation has notified the liberalised Drone Rules 2021 after receiving feedback from by academia, Startups, end-users and other stakeholders on the previous UAS Rules, 2021. The stakeholders were of the view that the previous rules were restrictive in nature as they involved considerable paperwork, required permissions for every drone flight and very few “free to fly” green zones were available.
The launch of "Drone Rules, 2021" by the Government of India is a path-breaking regulatory reform in the drone sector. We welcome this progressive step in ease of doing research and business, which will bring a paradigm shift and unleash the potential of R&D. We expect that almost all sectors of the economy like - agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, transportation, geo-spatial mapping, defense, and law enforcement shall gain tremendously from these rules,” said Abhay Karandikar, director, IIT Kanpur.
“The new policy marks a clear shift from the previous Unmanned Aircraft System (#UAS) rules as it simplify procedures, reduce the compliance burden, and encourage further research in #indigenous technology. Another boost will come with the removal of Type Certificate, Unique Identification Number and remote pilot license for R&D entities operating drones in their premises,” he added.
NASSCOM has also welcomed the Indian Government’s decision on liberalising Drone Rules 2021: “We welcome the government’s decision to liberalize norms for operating Drones in the country for both commercial and non-commercial purposes under the new Drone Rules, 2021. This will not only usher new growth opportunities but will also enable Startups and SMEs to create innovative use cases and applications in various sectors like E-Commerce, Mining, Healthcare, Emergency response, logistics among others,” said the premier trade body and chamber of commerce of the Tech industry in India.
“It is also welcoming to see that the Government has addressed the key concerns of the industry. In the stakeholder consultation, NASSCOM had highlighted the need to reassess the No Permission No Take Off (NPNT) requirement. The rules notified provides for some flexibility in the implementation of NPNT and gives a minimum lead time of six-month for compliance, in case it is notified by the Government. Further, the rules abolish certain approvals, reduce the number of permissions required and has eased the zoning restrictions thereby improving Ease of Doing Business considerably. The new rules will enable the industry to fully leverage technology to drive innovation in critical growth sectors. From precise interventions in farming over large areas to delivering medicines in far reaches of the country to delivering goods with zero human contact. Overall, the liberalized regime for civilian drones is progressive and should provide a strong fillip to the growth of the sector in India,” added NASSCOM.
Along the same lines, Abhishek Malhotra, managing partner, TMT Law Practice, said: “The new Rules have abolished the requirement of several approvals which were earlier required. There is no need to seek certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permit, authorization of R&D organization and student remote pilot license. The number of forms have been reduced from 25 to 5, which should enable growth in business, private participation.”
Key Features of the Liberalised Drone Rules 2021
Some of the key features of the new Drone Rules 2021 are as follows:
- Several approvals abolished: 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, and so on.
- The number of forms was reduced from 25 to 5.
- Types of fees reduced from 72 to 4.
- Quantum of fee reduced to nominal levels and delinked with the size of the drone. For instance, the fee for a remote pilot license fee has been reduced from INR 3000 (for large drones) to Rs 100 for all categories of drones; and is valid for 10 years.
- A digital sky platform shall be developed as a user-friendly single-window system. There will be minimal human interface and most permissions will be self-generated.
- Interactive airspace map with green, yellow and red zones shall be displayed on the digital sky platform within 30 days of publication of these rules.
- 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 metres 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 metres above the area located between a lateral distance of 8 and 12 kilometres from the perimeter of an operational airport.
- The yellow zone has been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter.
- No remote pilot licence required for micro drones (for non-commercial use) and nano drones.
- No requirement for security clearance before issuance of any registration or licence.
- 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.
- No restriction on foreign ownership in Indian drone companies.
- Import of drones to be regulated by DGFT.
- Requirement of import clearance from DGCA abolished.
- Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also.
- DGCA shall prescribe drone training requirements, oversee drone schools and provide pilot licences online.
- Remote pilot licence to be issued by DGCA within 15 days of pilot receiving the remote pilot certificate from the authorised drone school through the digital sky platform.