Just 5 forms, 4 types of fees: Civil Aviation ministry eases rules to operate drones in India

According to the draft rules, drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries, and a drone promotion council will be set up to facilitate a drone-friendly regulatory regime in India.

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter 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.

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.

The PM said the new rules will tremendously help startups and youth working in this sector.

"It will open up new possibilities for innovation and business. It will help leverage India's strengths in innovation, technology, and engineering to make India a drone hub," he mentioned.

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 valid for 10 years.

The rules have also abolished the requirement of various approvals, including certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permits, 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 for 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" are the airspace up to a vertical distance of 400 feet that have 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 processes for the 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 has 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 imported or manufactured only for export purposes, it will be exempted from type certification and the requirement of the unique identification number. 

Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries, and a drone promotion council will be set up to facilitate a 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.

Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Twitter 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.

Edited by Suman Singh