The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) on July 15, 2021, issued the updated draft Drone Rules, 2021, for public consultation. The updated draft Drone Rules will replace the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021, that were issued on March 12, 2021.
The last date for public consultation on the draft Drone Rules, 2021, is August 5, 2021.
As per the updated draft Drone Rules, 2021, drones without unique identification number will not be allowed to be operated, unless exempted. Drone operators will be required to generate a unique identification number of a drone on the Digital Sky platform.
What is Digital Sky platform?
• Digital Sky platform is an initiative by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) that offers a secure and scalable platform to support drone technology frameworks such as NPNT (No Permission, No Take-off), provide flight permission digitally, and manage unmanned aircraft operations and traffic in an efficient manner.
• The platform will be developed as a business-friendly single-window online system. Most flight permissions will be self-generated with minimal human interference.
Drone Rules, 2021: Key highlights
• The draft Drone Rules, 2021, will replace the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021, which were issued on March 12, 2021.
• The draft Drone Rules, 2021, will offer safety features such as geo-fencing, real-time tracking beacon. A six-month lead time will be given for compliance.
• The draft Drone Rules, 2021, will provide an interactive airspace map with yellow, green, and red zones that will be displayed on the Digital Sky platform. The yellow zone has been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the nearby airport perimeter. In the green zone, no flight permission will be required up to 400 ft and up to 200 ft in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.
• There is no requirement for a pilot licence for operating micro drones for non-commercial use, nano drones, or any research & development organizations operating such drones.
• Foreign-owned companies registered in India will not be restricted from operating drones.
• DGFT will regulate the import of drones and drone components.
• Security clearance will not be required before licence issuance or registration.
• Research and Development entities will not be required to generate certificates of airworthiness, remote pilot licence, prior permission, and unique identification number.
• The coverage of drones as per the draft Drone Rules, 2021, has been increased to 500 kg from 300 kg, including drone taxis.
• The Quality Council of India and certification entities authorized by the Council will handle the Issuance of Certificate of Airworthiness.
• Under the draft Drone Rules, 2021, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) will aid in developing drone corridors for cargo deliveries.
• A Drone Promotion Council will be created to enable a business-friendly regulatory regime.
Significance of draft Drone Rules, 2021
• The incident at the Jammu Air Force Station has put focus on security and safety risks associated with drone operations. The updated draft Drone Rules, 2021, will facilitate investments in drone technology in India. This aids in simplifying the process of registration.
• Further, abolishment of restrictive practices and stringent licence regime for UAS by the government offers flexibility to players in the sectors. An airspace map on the digital sky platform provides access to real-time updates for drone operation in various zones.