Drone industry stakeholders broadly welcomed the rules, with some believing they ushered in a new era in Indian drone ecosystem while others did not fit well.
“We welcome the notification of the 2021 drone rules. It rightly abolishes numerous permits and has drastically reduced the number of forms.” […] However, these rules surprisingly introduced the provision of a “type certificate” for UAS […] which could hinder the indigenization of drones in India, ”said Dr. Lalit Gupta, President of the Indian Aviation Association AvTech Forum (ATFI).
The draft drone rules, which relax several existing norms and reduce the burden on the industry from complying with the regulations, was notified by the Department of Civil Aviation on Aug. 26. These rules have now replaced the rules for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) published in March this year.
Read the full summary of MediaNama’s 2021 drone rules here.
Discussions about the new drone rules were spurred on by an alleged drone attack on an Indian air force base at Jammu Airport. The Prime Minister then discussed security measures and a review of existing drone regulations with officials from several key ministries such as the Ministry of Civil Aviation. At the meeting, MoCA officials presented a proposal for new drone regulations, and as previously reported by MediaNama, this current draft comes after considering the prime minister’s proposals.
The previous UAS rules were announced in March and introduced multiple levels of operational complexity for the drone industry. It required functions such as –
- Multi-level license and fee system for every activity related to drones
- Penalties for non-compliance had no upper limit and so on
Important findings from the 2021 drone rules
Reduction of the compliance effort
- Unique Authorization Number, Unique Prototype Identification Number, Certificate of Conformity, Maintenance Certificate, Operator Approval, R&D Organization Approval, Remote Pilot License for Remote Pilot, Remote Pilot Instructor License, Drone Port Permit, and Import Permit for Drone Components.
- The number of forms / authorizations has been reduced from 25 to 5.
- All authorizations are made through a single node, ie the DigitalSky platform.
- No security clearance is required to conduct any activity in the drone area.
Airspace maps for drones
- Interactive airspace maps with green, yellow and red zones are published on the digital Sky platform and should also be accessible via APIs.
- Yellow zone for drones reduced from 45 km to 12 km around airports.
- No permit is required to operate a drone in green zones and up to 60 feet within 8 to 12 km of airports.
Registration of drones
- Online registration of all required drones via the DigitalSky platform.
- Simple process for selling, leasing, donating, transferring and de-registering drones.
- A limited time window is provided for the regularization of existing drones in the country. However, a GST-paid invoice is required for this.
Drone training and certification:
- Drone training and exams are carried out by a DGCA authorized drone training school.
- The DGCA prescribes training requirements, oversees drone training schools and makes drone pilot licenses available online.
- A drone pilot license is not required to operate nano-drones and micro-drones for non-commercial use.
- Type certification of drones delegated to the certification bodies authorized by the Quality Council of India.
Drone deliveries and drone taxis:
- Drones up to 500 kg should fall under these rules, which can pave the way for heavy payload-carrying drones and drone taxis.
- Special drone corridors are to be developed for freight deliveries.
Promotion of R&D and domestic production:
- No type certification, drone registration, remote pilot license, or prior authorization required to fly drones during research and development.
- The central government will issue certification standards aimed at promoting the use of India-made technologies, designs, drone components and India’s regional positioning system, NavIC.
- A council for the advancement of unmanned aerial vehicles, made up of industry experts and academic institutions, will be established. This council aims to facilitate the development of a business-friendly regime, provide policy advice and promote the overall development of the drone ecosystem.
Industry satisfied with standards
Smit Shah, Director of the Drone Federation of India Said, “The adoption of these rules marks a new era in the Indian drone ecosystem, which has a market potential of more than INR 50,000 billion and can create 5,000,000 professional jobs over the next 5 years. The regulations, which cover drones up to 500kg, are intended to open up opportunities for domestic manufacturing of delivery drones and drone taxis to help make India fit for the future. The establishment of the Promotion Council for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, to which industry and science belong, shows that the government recognizes drone technology as a technology of national importance. “
Swapnik Jakkampuddi, co-founder of Skye Air Mobility, hailed the new drone rules as “a significant boost to commercial use for civil applications”.
The tremendous work of the MoCA in understanding the industry and publishing such a forward policy for drones will enable the industry to grow. The drone delivery service will be given a booster as we in the industry are now confident that the government will encourage development in this area – Swapnik Jakkampuddi, co-founder of Skye Air Mobility
Anjan Dasgupta, partner, DSK Legal, said: “The abolition of multiple licenses, lowering fees to nominal levels, etc. indicate that the government is looking to streamline the regulatory system for the operation of drones. Several companies from different sectors often apply for an exemption from the Department of Civil Aviation for drone operations, indicating the popularity of their use. In this regard, the rules have the potential to offer tremendous benefits to multiple sectors. “
The provision of a “Certificate of Air Worthiness” can hinder the indigenization of drones: ATFI
Although largely welcomed the new drone rules, the AvTech Forum (ATFI) pointed out a certain provision (requirement to issue a certificate of airworthiness for drones) of the rules that did not go well with them.
Gupta stated that the Aircraft Rules, 1937 and Annex 8 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) state that a type certificate is issued by the ICAO in order to Airplanes, engines or propellers that meet certain requirements. “There are currently no ICAO reported design airworthiness requirements for drones,” Gupta emphasized.
In the absence of design airworthiness standards, drones cannot be issued a type certificate or certificate of airworthiness. At Avtech Forum, we believe that in the absence of design airworthiness standards, such as those contained in the UAS 2021 rules, the type certification provisions could hinder the indigenization of drones in India – Dr. Gupta
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