Drones Rules, 2021 – UPSC GS3

  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation has released Drone Rules, 2021.
  • The rules will replace the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021, notified on March 12, 2021.
Key provisions 
  • Reduction in number of forms: The number of forms to be filled to seek authorisation before operating a drone has been reduced from 25 to 6.
  • Approvals abolished: many important approval requirements have been abolished, like Unique prototype identification number, certificate of maintenance, Import clearance, etc.
  • Relaxation for R&D entities: Further, no such approvals will be required for drones used for R&D by entities and educational institutions recognized by the Central government, State governments, or Union Territory Administrations.
  • Manufacturers may generate their drone’s unique identification number on the digital sky platform through the self-certification route.
    • Digital sky platform is an initiative by the Minister of Civil Aviation (MoCA) to provide a secure and scalable platform that supports drone technology frameworks, such as NPNT (no permission, no take-off).
    • The platform will be under India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
  • Under draft drone rules, Digital Sky platform will also be developed as a business-friendly single-window online system with minimal human interference and most permissions will be self-generated. It will also serve as a unified platform for users to obtain the mandatory registration number and remote pilot license. However, people will need to check the service to determine if any restrictions are in place before they fly a drone at a location.
  • Safety features: The Drone Rules 2021 also have safety features such real-time tracking beacon, and geo-fencing, which are expected to be notified in future, and a six-month lead time will be provided for compliance.
  • Air-space map: An interactive airspace map with green, yellow, and red zones will be displayed on the digital sky platform. The zones pertain to what is known as geofencing, which prohibit or limit the use of drones at some places, like close to an airport or over-sensitive military and VIP locations.
    • Green zone refers to the airspace from the ground up to a vertical distance of 400 feet (120 m) above ground level (AGL) that has not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone in the airspace map for drone operations. 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.
    • Yellow zone: To fly in the yellow zone, a drone pilot will require permission from the air traffic control authority. The yellow zone has been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from nearby airport perimeter.
    • Red zone: In red zones, drone operations shall be permitted only under exceptional circumstances by the central government.
  • No pilot licence will be required for micro drones used for non-commercial use, nano drones.
  • There will be no restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India.
  • Drone corridors: MoCA will facilitate the development of drone corridors for cargo deliveries, and a drone promotion council will be set up to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime.
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