Draft Drone Rules 2021

On July 15, 2021, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) released the updated Draft Drone Rules, 2021 for public consultation. Once it is approved, it is said to replace the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules 2021 that was released on 12 March 2021.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has highlighted that the number of forms to be filled to operate drones in the country have been significantly minimised to six in draft Drone Rules, 2021 in comparison to 25 forms endorsed in the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021.

This article will provide information about the recently released draft Drone rules, 2021 in the context of IAS Exam.

The draft drone rules, 2021 is an important notification released by the Indian government and the article provides information useful to prepare the UPSC syllabus.

The candidates who are preparing for the upcoming government exams can read related topics from the links below:

New Draft Drones Rules 2021 – Introduction

  • In the case of a drone with maximum all-up-weight more than 500 kilograms, the provisions of the Aircraft Rules, 1937 shall apply. Otherwise, the Aircraft Rules, 1937 shall not apply to drones and matters.
  • These rules shall not apply to drones used by the naval, military or air forces of the Union.
What is a drone?

“Drone” is an aircraft that can operate autonomously or can be operated remotely without a pilot on board.

Draft Drone Rules, 2021 - What is Drone?

Classification of Drones

Based on the maximum weight (including payload), the drones can be classified into five categories as listed below:

Classification of Drones
Drone Categories Their weight range
Nano drone Less than or equal to 250 gram
Micro drone Greater than 250 gram and less than or equal to 2 kilograms
Small drone Greater than 2 kilograms and less than or equal to 25 kilograms
Medium drone Greater than 25 kilograms and less than or equal to 150 kilograms
Large drone Greater than 150 kilograms

Quality Council of India

  • The Quality Council of India recommends to the Union government in regard to setting standards for obtaining a certificate of airworthiness for drones.
  • It can issue a certificate of airworthiness for any particular type of drone, on an application filed by a manufacturer or importer on the digital sky platform.
  • Also, any certification entity authorised either by the Quality Council of India or Central Government can issue certificate of airworthiness for drones.
Exemptions –

No certificate of airworthiness shall be required for manufacturing, importing or operating a –

  • prototype drone for the purpose of research and development;
  • prototype drone for obtaining certificate of airworthiness; and
  • nano drone

Safety features of Draft Drone Rules 2021

The safety features to be installed on a drone by the person owning the drone shall be notified by the Central Government from time to time and a certain time will be given for the installation of these features.

The safety features that may be notified in the future are listed below:

  1. ‘No Permission – No Takeoff’ (NPNT) hardware and firmware;
  2. Real-time tracking beacon that communicates the drone’s location, altitude, speed and unique identification number;
  3. Geo-fencing capability.

UPSC 2021

Airspace map

The entire airspace of India has been segregated into three zones for drone operations and are published in the digital sky platform. The three different zones include:

  1. Green zone
    • This zone means the airspace from the ground up to a vertical distance of 400 feet (120 metre) above ground level (AGL) that has not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone in the airspace map for drone operations.
    • The airspace from the ground up to a vertical distance of 200 feet (60 metre) AGL in the area is located between a lateral distance of 8 kilometres and 12 kilometres from the perimeter of an operational airport.
    • In the airspace above the designated green zone, the provisions of the yellow zone shall apply.
  2. Yellow zone – It is the controlled airspace where drone operations are restricted and shall require permission from the concerned air traffic control authority.
  3. Red zone – It is the airspace where drone operations shall be permitted only under exceptional circumstances by the Central Government.

No person shall operate a drone in a red zone or yellow zone without prior permission.

Drone Promotion Council

  • The Central Government may form a Drone Promotion Council for promoting the adoption and use of drones.
  • The drone promotion council shall facilitate –
    • development of a business-friendly regulatory regime, including automated permissions;
    • establishment of incubators and other facilities for the development of drone technologies;
    • involvement of industry experts and academic institutions in policy advice;
    • organising competitive events involving drones and counter-drone technologies.

Other Important Highlights

  • The Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021 stand repealed.
  • Import of drones and drone components shall be regulated by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.
  • No natural person other than a holder of a valid remote pilot licence enlisted on the digital sky platform shall operate a drone.
Exemption –

No remote pilot licence shall be required for a person –

(a) operating a nano drone; and

(b) operating a micro drone for non-commercial purposes.

  • No person shall operate a drone which does not have a unique identification number, unless such drone is exempted under these rules.
  • A person may generate the unique identification number of a drone by providing requisite details on the digital sky platform.
  • The unique identification number of a drone shall be linked to the unique serial number provided by the manufacturer and the unique serial numbers of its flight control module and ground control station.
  • The Central Government may publish the policy framework in respect of the Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) System on the digital sky platform.
  • The framework shall also provide for developing drone corridors for the safe transfer of goods by drones.
  • The draft rules have also prescribed easier processes for the transfer and deregistration of drones.
  • The draft also highlighted that there would be no restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India.

Way Forward

  • The Central Government may evaluate these rules on the basis of economic impact, which shall be documented in a six-monthly report that will list the achievements of the Indian drone sector and the measures taken to further the ease of doing business in the sector.
  • Drones can offer immense opportunities for economic growth and employment generation. Therefore, there is a need to regulate drone-related activities in a manner such that they do not pose any risk to the safety or security of people and assets.

Draft Drones Rules 2021 – UPSC Notes:-Download PDF Here

FAQ about Draft Drone Rules, 2021

What is a “Digital sky platform”?

Digital sky platform means the online platform hosted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for various activities related to the management of drone activities in India. The Director-General of Civil Aviation is appointed by the Government of India.

What do you mean by geo-fencing?

“Geo-fencing” means restricting the movement of drones within a defined airspace.
Other relevant links:

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