On Thursday, the government of India notified a new drone policy and fresh norms for their usage that are expected to significantly transform the landscape for drones and unmanned aircraft systems in the country.
The relaxation in rules stipulate that no security clearance is now required before any registration or issuing of licence for the operation of drones. Meanwhile, the fee for permissions to operate drones has also been reduced to nominal levels, the new rules explain. For example, the fee for a remote pilot license fee has been reduced from ₹3,000 (for large drones) to ₹100 for all categories of drones – and is valid for 10 years.
Under the ‘Drone Rules, 2021’, drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries. The rules also mention that the coverage of drones under these new rules has increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This would include drones that can carry heavy payloads and drone taxis, an ANI report explains.
Some previous approvals that have been removed under the new rules include a unique authorisation number, unique prototype identification number, certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, operator permits, authorisation of R&D organisations and a remote pilot instructor authorisation. Moreover, the maximum penalty under the new rules has been reduced to ₹1 lakh.
In the coming days, an interactive airspace map with green, yellow, and red zones will be displayed on the government's ‘Digital Sky’ platform. The yellow zone has been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the perimeter of an operational airport. No permission is required for operating a drone in green zones and upto 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport's perimeter.
The online registration of all drones will happen through the Digital Sky platform. According to the new rules, no pilot licence is now required for operating nano-drones and micro drones for non-commercial purposes.
Safety features such as ‘no permission-no take-off’, real-time tracking beacons, geo-fencing etc will be notified in future. A minimum six-month lead time will be provided for compliance, the ANI report adds.
All drone training and examination will be carried out by authorised drone schools. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) shall prescribe training requirements, oversee drone schools and provide pilot licences online, it added. However, the import of drones will be regulated by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT). An ‘Unmanned Aircraft Systems Promotion Council’ will also be set up to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime, the rules add.
Nagendran Kandasamy, founder and director of the Bengaluru-based drone company Throttle Aerospace Systems, told Mint: “The new rules are simplified and built on trust. They will help boost the (drone) industry. A lot, however, depends on DigiSky… The growth of drone startups could be tricky without easiness, simplifications, trust and self-reliance in the policy. The government has clearly taken a slew of measures to create harmony and a positive ecosystem in the drone industry. With so much happening in the global drones market, this simplified policy will pave the way towards made-in-India drones for the world."
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