Aviation Ministry announces Drone Rules 2021, eases license regulations; Check 30 key features

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has eased the rules regarding drone operations in the country by reducing the number of forms that need to be filled to operate them from 25 to 5 and the decreasing the types of fees charged from the operator from 72 to 4.

The Drone Rules, 2021, were issued on Wednesday. They supersede the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021, which had come into force on March 12 this year.  The fee, according to the new rules, has been reduced to nominal levels and de-linked from the size of the drone.

For example, the fee for a remote pilot license has been reduced for Rs 3,000 (for a large drone) to Rs 100 for all categories of drones and it is valid for 10 years.

PM Modi took to Twitter and said the new Drone Rules usher in a landmark moment for this sector in India. The new Drone Rules will tremendously help start-ups and our youth working

“The new Drone Rules usher in a landmark moment for this sector in India. The rules are based on the premise of trust and self-certification. Approvals, compliance requirements and entry barriers have been significantly reduced,” PM Modi tweeted.

“The new Drone Rules will tremendously help start-ups and our youth working in this sector. It will open up new possibilities for innovation & business. It will help leverage India’s strengths in innovation, technology & engineering to make India a drone hub,” he firther added.

The rules have also abolished the requirement of various approvals, including certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permit, authorisation of R&D organisation and student remote pilot licence.

Other approvals such as unique authorisation number, unique prototype identification number and certificate of manufacturing and airworthiness have also been abolished, according to Drone Rules, 2021.

No flight permission will be required up to 400 feet in “green zones” and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter, the new rules stated.  “Green zones” means the airspace up to a vertical distance of 400 feet that has not been designated as red zone or yellow zone in the airspace map.

An interactive airspace map with green, yellow and red zones shall be displayed on the digital sky platform within 30 days of publication of these new rules. The Drone Rules, 2021, have also prescribed easier process for transfer and deregistration of drones.

No pilot licence will be required for micro drones (for non-commercial use) and nano drones, the rules mentioned, adding that maximum penalty for violations have been reduced to Rs 1 lakh. According to the new rules, the type certificate and unique identification number will be required only when a drone is to be operated in India.

If a drone is being imported or manufactured only for export purposes, it will be exempted from type certification and the requirement of unique identification number. Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries and a drone promotion council will be set up to facilitate drone-friendly regulatory regime in the country, according to the draft rules.

The rules also stated that there would be no restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India. Digital sky platform will be developed as a business-friendly single-window online system, the new rules mentioned. 

30 key features of Drone Rules 2021          

Built on a premise of trust, self-certification and non-intrusive monitoring.

Designed to usher in an era of super-normal growth while balancing safety and security considerations.

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 etc.

Number of forms reduced from 25 to 5. 

Types of fee reduced from 72 to 4. 

Quantum of fee 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.

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 required for operating drones in green zones.  Green zone means the airspace upto 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 upto a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 metre above the area located between a lateral distance of 8 and 12 kilometre from the perimeter of an operational airport.

Yellow zone 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 numberand 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.

Testing of drones for issuance of Type Certificate to be carried out by Quality Council of India or authorised testing entities. 

Type Certificate required only when a drone is to be operated in India.  Importing and manufacturing drones purely for exportsare exempt from type certification and unique identification number. 

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

Manufacturers and importers may generate their drones’ unique identification number on the digital sky platform through the self-certification route.

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

Drones present in India on or before 30 Nov 2021 will be issued a unique identification number through the digital sky platform provided, they have a DAN, a GST-paid invoice and are part of the list of DGCA-approved drones.  

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 required unless there is a significant departure from the prescribed procedures.

Maximum penalty for violations reduced to INR 1 lakh. 

Safety and security features like ‘No permission – no takeoff’ (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geo-fencing etc. to be notified in future.  A six-month lead time will be provided to the industry for compliance.

Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.

Drone promotion council to be set up by Government with participation from academia, startups and other stakeholders to facilitate a growth-oriented regulatory regime.

Editor JK News Updates

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