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India releases updated Drone Rules 2021 to promote drone technology

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) issued the revised draft Drone Rules, 2021, for public review on Thursday. The Drone Rules, 2021 is supposed to replace the UAS (unmanned aircraft system), which was introduced on March 12, 2021. The deadline to submit public remarks is August 5, 2021.

Flying drones without a unique identification number will be restricted unless permitted, according to the new draft Drone Rules 2021. People operating drones will need to provide the necessary information on the digital sky platform to generate a unique identification number for their drones. Digital Sky Platform is a Ministry of Civil Aviation attempt to create a reliable, flexible platform that supports drone technology standards such as NPNT (no license, no takeoff), to digitally authorize flying, and to effectively control operations and traffic of unmanned air vehicles.

Drone with GoPro camera in Air

Image Source: Tour My India

In addition, the draft Drone Rules, 2021, have safety features such as real-time monitoring of beacons and geofencing, which are intended to be informed in the future, with a six-month lead time for compliance. Most approvals will be self-generated, and the digital sky platform will be designed as a business-friendly single-window online system with minimum human intervention.

The guidelines further state that the digital sky platform is displaying an interactive airspace map with green, yellow, and red zones. Although the Yellow Zone is decreased from 45 to 12 kilometres of the surrounding boundary of the airport, no flight permits are required for green zones to 400 feet, and up to 200 feet within 8 and 12 kilometres of the airport boundary.

Microdrones used for non-commercial purposes, nano drones, and Research and Development (R&D) institutions flying such drones will not require a pilot license. Drone activity by foreign-owned institutions registered in India is no longer restricted. Imports on drones and drone equipment will be regulated by DGFT and no security approval will be required prior to registration or licensing. R&D institutions are not required to have a certificate of airworthiness, a unique identification number, pre-authorization, or a remote pilot license.

Furthermore, the weight limit for drones under the Drone Rules 2021 has been raised to 500 kg, which would include drone taxis, and the responsibility for issuing Certificates of Airworthiness has been handed to the Quality Council of India and certifying organizations accredited by it. MoCA will also support the formation of drone routes for cargo delivery, as well as the formation of a drone promotion council to promote a business-friendly regulatory approach. Under the Drone Rules, 2021, the maximum penalty has been decreased to Rs 1 lakh. This does not apply to fines imposed for violations of other laws.

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