The government recently released the liberalised Drone Rules, 2021.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, offer tremendous benefits to almost all sectors of the economy like – agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, transportation, geo-spatial mapping, defence, and law enforcement etc. Drones can be significant creators of employment and economic growth due to their reach, versatility, and ease of use, especially in India’s remote and inaccessible areas.In view of its traditional strengths in innovation, information technology, frugal engineering and huge domestic demand, India has the potential to be global drone hub by 2030.
30 key features of Drone Rules 2021
- Built on a premise of trust, self-certification and non-intrusive monitoring.
- Designed to usher in an era of super-normal growth while balancing safety and security considerations.
- Several approvals abolished: 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.
- Number of forms reduced from 25 to 5.
- Types of fee reduced from 72 to 4.
- Quantum of fee reduced to nominal levels and delinked with size of drone. For instance, the fee for a remote pilot license fee has been reduced from INR 3000 (for large drone) to INR 100 for all categories of drones; and is valid for 10 years.
- Digital sky platform shall be developed as a user-friendly single-window system. There will be minimal human interface and most permissions will be self-generated.
- Interactive airspace map with green, yellow and red zones shall be displayed on the digital sky platform within 30 days of publication of these rules.
- No permission required for operating drones in green zones. Green zone means the airspace upto 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 upto 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.
- Yellow zone reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter.
- No remote pilot licence required for micro drones (for non-commercial use) and nano drones.
- No requirement for security clearance before issuance of any registration or licence.
- No requirement of Type Certificate, unique identification numberand remote pilot licence by R&D entities operating drones in own or rented premises, located in a green zone.
- No restriction on foreign ownership in Indian drone companies.
- Import of drones to be regulated by DGFT.
- Requirement of import clearance from DGCA abolished.
- Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also.
- DGCA shall prescribe drone training requirements, oversee drone schools and provide pilot licences online.
- Remote pilot licence to be issued by DGCA within 15 days of pilot receiving the remote pilot certificate from the authorised drone school through the digital sky platform.
- Testing of drones for issuance of Type Certificate to be carried out by Quality Council of India or authorised testing entities.
- Type Certificate required only when a drone is to be operated in India. Importing and manufacturing drones purely for exportsare exempt from type certification and unique identification number.
- Nano and model drones (made for research or recreation purposes) are exempt from type certification.
- Manufacturers and importers may generate their drones’ unique identification number on the digital sky platform through the self-certification route.
- Easier process specified for transfer and deregistration of drones through the digital sky platform.
- Drones present in India on or before 30 Nov 2021 will be issued a unique identification number through the digital sky platform provided, they have a DAN, a GST-paid invoice and are part of the list of DGCA-approved drones.
- Standard operating procedures (SOP) and training procedure manuals (TPM) will be prescribed by DGCA on the digital sky platform for self-monitoring by users. No approvals required unless there is a significant departure from the prescribed procedures.
- Maximum penalty for violations reduced to INR 1 lakh.
- Safety and security features like ‘No permission – no takeoff’ (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geo-fencing etc. to be notified in future. A six-month lead time will be provided to the industry for compliance.
- Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
- Drone promotion council to be set up by Government with participation from academia, startups and other stakeholders to facilitate a growth-oriented regulatory regime.
INDIA’S Airspace Map for Drone Operations
The Government has released India’s airspace map for drone operations on 24 September 2021. The map is available on DGCA’s digital sky platform at https://digitalsky.dgca.gov.in/home.
The drone airspace map comes as a follow-through of the liberalized Drone Rules, 2021 released by the Central Government on 25 August 2021, the PLI scheme for drones released on 15 September 2021 and the Geospatial Data Guidelines issued on 15 Feb 2021. All these policy reforms will catalyse super-normal growth in the upcoming drone sector.
WHY ARE DRONES IMPORTANT?
Drones offer tremendous benefits to almost all sectors of the economy. These include – agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, transportation, geo-spatial mapping, defence, and law enforcement to name a few. Drones can be significant creators of employment and economic growth due to their reach, versatility, and ease of use, especially in India’s remote and inaccessible areas.
Given its traditional strengths in innovation, information technology, frugal engineering and its huge domestic demand, India has the potential of becoming a global drone hub by 2030.
WHAT’S THE LIKELY IMPACT OF THESE DRONE INITIATVES?
Thanks to the new rules, the drone PLI scheme and the freely accessible drone airspace maps, the drones and drone components manufacturing industry may see an investment of over INR 5,000 crore over the next three years. The annual sales turnover of the drone manufacturing industry may grow from INR 60 crore in 2020-21 fold to over INR 900 crore in FY 2023-24. The drone manufacturing industry is expected to generate over 10,000 direct jobs over the next three years.
The drone services industry (operations, mapping, surveillance, agri-spraying, logistics, data analytics, software development etc.) will grow to an even larger scale. It is expected to grow to over INR 30,000 crore in next three years. The drone services industry is expected to generate over five lakh jobs in three years.
TOP 10 FEATURES OF THE DRONE AIRSPACE MAPS
- The drone airspace map is an interactive map of India that demarcates the yellow and red zones across the country.
- Green zone is the airspace upto 400 feet that has not been designated as a red or yellow zone; and upto 200 feet above the area located between 8-12 km from the perimeter of an operational airport.
- In green zones, no permission whatsoever is required for operating drones with an all-up weight upto500 kg.
- Yellow zone is the airspace above 400 feet in a designated green zone; above 200 feet in the area located between 8-12 km from the perimeter of an operational airport and above ground in the area located between 5-8 km from the perimeter of an operational airport.
- Drone operations in yellow zone require permission from the concerned air traffic control authority – AAI, IAF, Navy, HAL etc. as the case may be.
- Yellow zone has been reduced from 45 km earlier to 12 km from the airport perimeter.
- Red zone is the ‘no-drone zone’ within which drones can be operated only after a permission from the Central Government.
- The airspace map may be modified by authorised entities from time to time.
- Anyone planning to operate a drone should mandatorily check the latest airspace map for any changes in zone boundaries.
- The drone airspace map is freely available on the digital sky platform to all without any login requirements.
TOP 15 FEATURES OF DRONE RULES, 2021 (NOTIFIED ON 25 AUG 2021)
- Based on a premise of trust, self-certification and non-intrusive monitoring.
- Several permissions and approvals abolished. Number of forms reduced from 25 to 5. Types of fee reduced from 72 to 4.
- Digital sky platform being developed as a user-friendly online single-window system.
- Interactive drone airspace map with red and yellow zones to be released by 24 September 2021.
- No permission required for operating drones in green zones.
- Yellow zone, where ATC permission is required, has been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter.
- No remote pilot licence required for micro drones (for non-commercial use) and drones.
- No security clearance required before issuance of any registration or licence.
- Coverage of drones under drone rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also.
- No restriction on foreign ownership in Indian drone companies.
- No requirement of import clearance from DGCA.
- Remote pilot licence to be issued by DGCA within 15 days of pilot receiving the remote pilot certificate from an authorised drone school.
- Maximum penalty for violations reduced to INR 1 lakh. Was several lakhs earlier.
- Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
- Drone promotion council to be set up by government with participation from academia, startups and other stakeholders.
TOP 15 FEATURES OF THE PLI SCHEME FOR DRONES (APPROVED ON 15 SEP 2021)
- The total amount allocated for the PLI scheme for drones and drone components is INR 120 crore spread over three financial years. This amount is nearly double the combined turnover of all domestic drone manufacturers in FY 2020-21.
- The incentive for a manufacturer of drones and drone components shall be as high as 20% of the value addition made by her.
- The value addition shall be calculated as the annual sales revenue from drones and drone components (net of GST) minus the purchase cost (net of GST) of drone and drone components.
- The Government, has agreed to keep the PLI rate constant at 20% for all three years, an exceptional treatment given only to the drone industry. In PLI schemes for other sectors, the PLI rate reduces every year.
- The proposed tenure of the PLI scheme is three years starting in FY 2021-22. The PLI scheme will be extended or redrafted after studying its impact in consultation with the industry.
- The Government has agreed to fix the minimum value addition norm at 40% of net sales for drones and drone components instead of 50%, another exceptional treatment given to the drone industry. This will allow widening the number of beneficiaries.
- The PLI scheme covers a wide variety of drone components:
- Airframe, propulsion systems (engine and electric), power systems, batteries and associated components, launch and recovery systems;
- Inertial Measurement Unit, Inertial Navigation System, flight control module, ground control station and associated components;
- Communications systems (radio frequency, transponders, satellite-based etc.)
- Cameras, sensors, spraying systems and related payload etc.;
- ‘Detect and Avoid’ system, emergency recovery system, trackers etc. and other components critical for safety and security.
- The list of eligible components may be expanded by the Government from time to time, as the drone technology evolves.
- The Government has agreed to widen the coverage of the incentive scheme to include developers of drone-related IT products also.
- The Government has kept the eligibility norm for MSME and startups in terms of annual sales turnover at a nominal level – INR 2 cr (for drones) and INR 50 lakhs (for drone components). This will allow widening the number of beneficiaries.
- Eligibility norm for non-MSME companies in terms of annual sales turnover has been kept at INR 4 crore (for drones) and INR 1 crore (for drone components).
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