Drone Rules 2021: Colour-coded zones, no security clearance before registration; check key takeaways

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The Ministry of Civil Aviation has notified the Drone Rules, 2021, under which the coverage of all-up weight of an unmanned aircraft system has been increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. Besides, no security clearance will be required before any registration or licence issuance.

Under the new rules, the number of forms that need to be filled to operate them has been reduced from 25 to five and decreasing the types of fees charged from the operator from 72 to four.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the new drone rules “usher in a landmark moment for the 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,” he stated.

What are the changes from the previous framework:

According to the Civil Aviation Ministry, several approvals that were required — 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 — have been abolished.

Apart from this, the quantum of fees, which was earlier linked to the size of drone, has been reduced and delinked from the size. For instance, the fee for a remote pilot license fee has been reduced from Rs 3,000 (for large drone) to Rs 100 for all categories of drones; and is valid for 10 years.

Online registration

The aviation ministry said the Digital Sky platform will be developed as a single-window platform for the clearances that are required. An interactive airspace map will also be displayed on the platform that will show the three zones: yellow, green and red. These zones have been demarcated to tell drone operators where they can and cannot fly their aircraft systems.

Even in these zones, the government has liberalised the rules. For example, the yellow zone, which was earlier 45 kilometres from the airport perimeter, has now been reduced to a 12 kilometre zone. Meaning that outside of a 12 km radius of an airport perimeter (which would be a green zone) drone operators no longer need permission to fly.

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 8 and 12 kilometre from the perimeter of an operational airport.

Some other relaxations:

  • 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 the 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.
  • Civil Aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Twitter that the new drone rules will trigger a revolution in the logistics and transportation sector and create change ripples across sectors such as agriculture, healthcare and mining.
  • “It (new drone rules) will also provide a launchpad to our startups who are ready to lead this revolution from the front,” he mentioned.

Significance of new drone rules:

The liberalised regime for civilian drones marks a shift in policy by the government to allow operations of such drones and highlights the government’s intent to allow the use of drones.

The draft rules for the new policy were announced back in July, just weeks after a drone attack took place at an Indian Air Force base in Jammu.

With inputs from PTI

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