MoCA issues draft drone policy to ensure ease of operations, to be further aided by public consultation

India’s Civil Aviation Ministry on Thursday released the updated draft Drone Rules, 2021 for public consultation. As per the Ministry of civil aviation (MoCA), the rules are “built on a premise of trust, self-certification, and non-intrusive monitoring” and will replace the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Rules that were issued earlier in March this year.

As per the draft Drone Rules, 2021, approvals for the 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, drone port authorisation, etc. have been abolished.

The Ministry has specially stated that drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.

“Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021, has been increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also,” it noted. The ministry stated that it has reduced the fees to nominal levels. The fees would not be linked to the size of the drone.

“Safety features like ‘No permission, no take-off’ (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geo-fencing, etc. has to be notified in future. A six-month lead time will be provided for compliance,” read the statement issued by the Civil Aviation Ministry.

A drone promotion council will also be established to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime, it noted.

The Ministry said it will develop a Digital Sky platform which will act as a business-friendly single-window online system. The Digital Sky platform will be operated by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and wherein it will prescribe Standard operating procedures (SOP) and training procedure manuals (TPM) for self-monitoring by users.

The Ministry explained that there will be the minimum human interface on the Digital Sky platform and that most of the requests will be self-generated. It also mentioned an interactive airspace map with green, yellow, and red zones to be displayed on the Digital Sky platform.

“Yellow zone will be reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter. No flight permission required upto 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter,” the statement noted.

The Ministry has also proposed to remove the pilot licence requirement for micro drones (for non-commercial use), nano drones and for R&D organisations. It also mentioned about relaxing restrictions on drone operations by foreign-owned firms registered in India.

Meanwhile, all drone training and testing will be carried out by an authorised drone school, as per the Civil Aviation Ministry. And DGCA shall be prescribing training requirements, oversee drone schools and provide pilot licences online.

The maximum penalty under the Drone Rules, 2021, has been reduced to Rs 1 lakh. “This shall, however, not apply to penalties in respect of violation of other laws,” noted the Ministry.

The last date for submitting public comment on the draft Drone Rules, 2021, has been set as  August 05, 2021.

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