The Ministry of Civil Aviation says that India has the potential to be a global drone hub by 2030 as Drones offer tremendous benefits to all sectors of the economy & can be significant creators of employment & economic growth due to their reach, versatility, & ease of use.
In a big step towards realising this goal, the Ministry of Civil Aviation recently notified the liberalised Drone Rules, 2021 which have repealed the UAS Rules, 2021.
Why “Liberalised” Drone Rules?
Well, In March 2021, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) published the UAS Rules, 2021 which were perceived by academia, Startups, end-users and other stakeholders as being restrictive in nature.
They involved sizeable paperwork, required permissions for every drone flight and gave the availability of very few “free to fly” green zones. Hence, based on these feedbacks, the government has come up with new Drone Rules that will make drone operations simpler for civilian drone operators.
The new rules are aimed at making it significantly easier for people and companies to own and operate drones. They also streamline a labyrinthine certification process for manufacturers, importers and users.
Let’s understand in detail, What are these liberalised changes from the previous framework that regulated drone operations?
Earlier, a total of 25 forms were needed to be filled, which now has been reduced to just five. Moreover, the total number of fees that are to be paid before being able to operate drones has been reduced from 72 to only 4.
Several approvals have been abolished such as unique prototype identification number, certificate of manufacturing and airworthiness, certificate of conformance, maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permit.
Many authorisations like that for Research & Development organisation, remote pilot instructor, student remote pilot licence, drone port, unique numbers, etc have also been nulled.
Additionally, the quantum of fees, which was earlier linked to the size of the drone, has been reduced and delinked from the size. For example, the remote pilot license fee, which was Rs 3,000 for a large size drone, has been reduced to Rs 100 — which is the fee for all categories of drones.
The other Key Features of Drone Rules 2021 involve a Digital sky platform that will be developed as a user-friendly single-window system. This platform will have minimal human interface wherein most permissions will be self-generated.
Interactive airspace map with green, yellow and red zones will be displayed on the digital sky platform, moreover, some Standard operating procedures and training procedure manuals will be prescribed by DGCA on this platform for self-monitoring by users.
The new Drone Rules state that “No permission is required for operating drones in green zones”. Green zone refers to 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.
As per the new rules, foreign ownership has been allowed for companies operating drones. However, the import of drones will continue to be regulated by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.
Earlier, prior to the issuance of a registration or licence, security clearance was necessary. But now, the government has done away with the need for this clearance.
The new rules have been hailed by the government and industry stakeholders alike, wherein Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that “The new Drone Rules will usher in a landmark moment for this sector in India as they are based on the premise of trust and self-certification.”
The Prime Minister also noted that the new Drone Rules will tremendously help start-ups and our youth working in this sector by opening new possibilities for innovation & business. It will help leverage India’s strengths in innovation, technology & engineering to make India a drone hub.
Taking India’s Drone capabilities forward, the Ministry of Civil Aviation says that Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
Recently, the Government has been providing a conditional exemption for experimental drone flights for vaccine delivery as part of a constant endeavour to enhance the scope of drone usage in the country and assist the nation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier, the Ministry had granted a conditional exemption for experimental drone flights for vaccine delivery to the Government of Telangana and the Indian Council of Medical Research.
The grant of these permissions aims to achieve the dual objectives of faster vaccine delivery and improved healthcare access by ensuring primary healthcare delivery at the citizen’s doorstep.
Needless to say, Unmanned Aircraft Systems or Drones offer tremendous benefits to almost all sectors of the economy like – agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, transportation, geo-spatial mapping, defence, and law enforcement etc.
The new Drones Rule 2021 are going to change the technological landscape of India in more ways than we can imagine!