One may soon not need to fill 25 forms or a lot of approvals to use drones and the fees for using this technology will be cut sharply too. What’s more, no pilot licence will be required for small drones (that weigh up to 2 kg) that are used for non-commercial use. Further, security clearance will no longer be required before a registration or licence issuance.
Furthermore, there will be no restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India. The maximum penalty under new rules will be capped at Rs 1 lakh. This shall, however not apply to penalties in respect of violation of other laws.
Following feedback from the industry about how the “Unmanned Aircraft System Rules (UAS Rules), 2021”, which came into force this March, had made using drones very difficult amid a lot of formalities, the civil aviation ministry has proposed key changes in a draft “The Drone Rules, 2021,” that strikes a balance in simplifying their use in a manner “that they do not pose any risk to safety or security of people and assets”.
The proposed rules will cover drones weighing up to 500 kg, instead of 300 kg earlier, and cover drone taxis as well. And drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
The draft drone rules — that hope to unleash the true potential of drone usage are “built on a premise of trust, self-certification and non-intrusive monitoring,” said a senior official. The ministry has sought public comments till 5 August 2021. It will come out with the final rules after taking them into consideration. Once that happens, Drone Rules, 2021 will replace the UAS Rules, 2021.
Among the radical changes proposed are abolishing several approvals including getting unique authorisation number, unique prototype identification number, certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permits, authorisation of R&D organisation, student remote pilot licence, remote pilot instructor authorisation and drone port authorisation.
- The number of forms has been reduced from 25 to 6.
- The fee has been reduced to “nominal levels” and not linked to the size of the drone. Safety features like ‘no permission – no takeoff’ (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon and geofencing will be notified in future. A six-month lead time will be provided for compliance.
The digital sky platform will be developed as a “business-friendly single-window online system and there will be a minimal human interface on digital sky platform and most permissions will be self-generated,” the official says.
Under the proposed changed rules, an interactive airspace map with green, yellow and red zones will be displayed on the digital sky platform. The yellow zone is proposed to be reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter. No flight permission is required up to 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.
Under new rules, manufacturers may generate their drone’s unique identification number on the digital sky platform through the self-certification route. The process for the transfer and deregistration of these flying objects will be simplified.