The government of India has notified the much-awaited drone rules in 2021. The government of India has earlier notified rules in 2018 but they were quite restrictive for drone users and negatively impacted public opinion.
1) Nano Drones
These are the drones that have least restrictions and doesn’t require any registration or license to fly. Any drone that is below 250 g of weight falls in this category. The most famous drone in this category is DJI mini 2. So anything smaller than this will be considered a nano drone and no license or registration is required in green zones.
2) Micro Drones
These are the drones that have least restrictions and doesn’t require any registration or license to fly. Any drone that is between 250 g – 2 kg falls in this category.
3) Small Drones
These are the drones that have least restrictions and doesn’t require any registration or license to fly. Any drone that is between 2 kg – 25 kg falls in this category.
4) Medium Drones
These are the drones that have least restrictions and doesn’t require any registration or license to fly. Any drone that is between 25 kg – 150 kg falls in this category.
5) Large Drones
These are the drones that have least restrictions and doesn’t require any registration or license to fly. Any drone that is more than 150 kg falls in this category.
Drone’s zone categorization
The Drone Rules 2021 associated airspace maps classify Indian airspace into three zones shown below. There are different restrictions in different zones. So you need to be well-versed with zones.
- Red Zone means the airspace within which unmanned aircraft system (UAV/UAS) operations shall be permitted only by the central Government i.e. you can not fly without permission from the central government of India.
- Yellow Zone means the airspace within which unmanned aircraft system operations are restricted.
- Yellow Zone Inner: It is a zone that is between a 5km – 8km radius from the periphery of a nearby airport. Drones can only be flown after permission from the concerned air traffic control (ATC) authority.
- Yellow Zone Outer: It is a zone that is within an 8km – 12km radius from the periphery of a nearby airport. Drones can be flown without permission only up to a height of 200 feet or 60 meters.
- Green Zone means the airspace up to a vertical distance of 400 feet or 120 meters that has not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone in the airspace map for unmanned aircraft system (UAS/UAV) operations.
Digital Sky interactive map
The central Government released India’s airspace map for drone operations on 24 September 2021. This is an interactive map updated continuously that shows restricted spaces around you. You should check this first before flying your drone so that you do not get into any trouble. This interactive map is available on DGCA’s digital sky interactive map.
Registration of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)
- No person shall operate an unmanned aircraft system without first registering it on the digital sky platform and obtaining a unique identification number, unless exempted from the requirement of a unique identification number under Drone Rules, 2021.
- A registration record shall be maintained by the Director-General of all such unmanned aircraft systems to which a unique identification number has been issued under Drone Rule, 2021.
- It shall be the responsibility of the person operating an unmanned aircraft system to ensure that such unmanned aircraft system conforms to a valid type certificate.
Remote Pilot License
If you want to fly drones in the Small, medium, and large categories then you must have a license. But you only need license to fly micro drone for commercial purpose.
An individual shall be eligible to obtain a remote pilot license if he:
- is not less than 18 years of age and not more than 65 years of age.
- has passed the 10th class examination or its equivalent from a recognized Board.
- has completed such training as specified by the Director-General, from any authorized remote pilot training organization.
UAS for R&D
The following persons shall not require a type certificate, unique identification number, prior permission, and remote pilot license for operating unmanned aircraft systems for research, development, and testing purposes, namely:
- any research and development entity under the administrative control of, or recognized by, the Central Government or State Government, or Union Territory Administration;
- any educational institution under the administrative control of, or recognized by, the Central Government or State Government, or Union Territory Administration;
- any Startup recognized by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade;
- any authorized testing entity
- any unmanned aircraft system manufacturer having a Goods and Service Tax
- Identification Number
Drone Rules, 2021
- Based on a premise of trust, self-certification, and non-intrusive monitoring.
- Several approvals were abolished: unique authorization number, unique prototype identification number, certificate of manufacturing and airworthiness, certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permits, authorization of R&D organization, student remote pilot license, remote pilot instructor authorization, drone port authorization, etc.
- The number of forms was reduced from 25 to 5.
- Types of fees reduced from 72 to 4.
- Quantum of fee reduced to nominal levels and delinked with the size of the drone. For instance, the fee for a remote pilot license fee has been reduced from INR 3000 (for large drones) to INR 100 for all categories of drones; and is valid for 10 years.
- The digital sky platform is being developed as a user-friendly online single-window system. There will be minimal human interface and most permissions will be self-generated.
- No permission is required for operating drones in green zones up to a height of 400 feet or 120 meters.
- The yellow zone, where ATC permission is required, has been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter.
- No remote pilot license is required for micro drones (for non-commercial use) and nano drones.
- No requirement of Type Certificate, unique identification number, and remote pilot license by R&D entities operating drones on own or rented premises, located in a green zone.
- Import of drones to be regulated by DGFT.
- Requirement of import clearance from DGCA abolished.
- No security clearance is required before the issuance of any registration or license.
- 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 licenses online.
- No restriction on foreign ownership in Indian drone companies.
- Remote pilot license to be issued by DGCA within 15 days of the pilot receiving the remote pilot certificate from an authorized 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 authorized testing entities.
- Type Certificate required only when a drone is to be operated in India. Importing and manufacturing drones purely for exports are exempt from type certification and unique identification numbers.
- 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.
- The 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 (Device Acknowledgment Number), 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 are required unless there is a significant departure from the prescribed procedures.
- Safety and security features like ‘No Permission – No Takeoff’ (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geo-fencing, etc. to be notified in the future. A six-month lead time will be provided to the industry for compliance.
- The maximum penalty for violations is reduced to INR One lakh. It was several lakhs earlier.
- Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the new drone rules in India?
The drone rules announced by the government of India in August 2021 try to regularise and liberalize the use of drones in India. The rules notified in 2021 are much more liberal compared to earlier rules notified in 2018.
They seek to decrease the permissions required to fly a drone earlier and improve the public outlook about drones in general.