On March 12, 2021, India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation released a new set of comprehensive drone laws and regulations applicable to all Category System (UAS) registered in India. Each and every company or individual owning, possessing, or involved in exporting, importing, manufacturing, trading, leasing, transferring, operations, or maintenance of drones in India is bound to abide by all the rules and regulations newly aligned by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Before getting into the rules, let’s have a quick look at the classification of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs) by the Government of India.
Classification of the RPAs
The Indian Government classifies drones into five different categories based on their maximum weight (including payload). The categories are:
1. Nano category: It constitutes of drones less than or equal to 250 grams with its maximum speed limit of 15 m/s
2. Micro category: The drones with greater than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 kilograms weight come under this category
3. Small category: This category consists of drones having a weight ranging from 2 kilograms to 25 kilograms
4. Medium category: This category comprises drones that weigh greater than 25 kilograms and less than or equal to 150 kilograms.
5. Large category: The drones weighing greater than 150 kilograms belong to this category.
Now, let’s have a look at the recent drone laws in India.
1. Authorisation Certificate is a must!
Under this system, all drones will require a Formal Authorisation Certificate, which it is proposed will be issued by testing laboratories or organizations authorized to do so by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). All drones will also need a maintenance manual that needs to be provided to purchasers upon sale. However, this law won’t apply to drones above 300kg as they are covered in the Aircraft Act.
2. No domestic usage anymore!
According to the new set of rules, drones will not be allowed to operate beyond visual line of sight or for delivery of goods, which would limit the use of these gadgets to surveys, photography, security, and various information gathering purposes.
3. Make sure to fulfill the prerequisites.
There are certain prerequisites for Setting Up a Drone Business in India which includes the following:
• The company must be registered
• It should have its principal place of business within India
• The Chairman and at least two-thirds of its stakeholders must be the Citizens of India
4. Unauthorized drone use to invite penalty.
The rules also prescribe penalties for any unauthorized import, buying, selling, and leasing of drones. Additionally, flying a drone by a person who is not a licensed remote pilot will also be regarded as a punishable offense. Thus, irrespective of the category, no drone shall be allowed to operate in India without a valid certificate of manufacture and airworthiness issued by the DGCA. Buying or selling or leasing or possessing an unregistered drone shall be illegal in India.
To obtain a certificate of manufacture and airworthiness from the DGCA, every drone must be equipped with the following 16 components and features:
1) Autonomous Flight Termination System or Return To Home (RTH) option
2) Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver(s) – It is essential for horizontal and vertical position fixing
3) Geo-fencing capability
4) Flashing anti-collision strobe lights
5) Flight controller
6) Flight data logging capability
7) No Permission – No Takeoff (NPNT) compliant (with tamper-proof NPNT hardware and firmware)
8) Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) transponder or ADS-B OUT equipment (if intended to operate beyond 400 feet/120 m AGL)
9) Reliable Command and Control Link
10) Real-time tracking system
11) Barometric equipment with capability for remote sub-scale setting
12) Detect and Avoid (if intended to operate beyond 400 feet/120 m AGL)
13) Manufacturer Serial Number
14) Fire-resistant identification plate for engraving the UIN
15) Two-way communication system (if intended to operate beyond 400 feet/120 m AGL)
16) 360-degree collision avoidance system
17) Emergency recovery system - to ensure protection from damage and public injury in case of any airborne failure (only for small, medium, and large categories)
Although the Nano and Micro categories enjoy several exemptions from the above list, the Small, Medium, and Large are bound to have them all without any failure.
Penalties against Unauthorized Manufacture and Import of Drones or its parts:
• Unauthorized import of drones belonging to any category or a part of a component of it to India would attract a penalty of INR 25,000.
• A penalty of INR 50,000 would be imposed on the unauthorized manufacturing of a drone or its component in India.
• The fine for unauthorized buying or selling or leasing of a drone or its part has been set at INR 25,000.
• If you fraudulently lend out your license, certificate, authorization, permit or approval to another person or allow it to be used by anyone else, be prepared to pay a fine of INR 50,000.
• Compounding offenses for Nano, Micro, Small, Medium, and Large categories will be levied at the rate of 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 percent, respectively.
5. Laws on Importing Drone Prototype or Drone Parts to India
No readymade drone prototype or drone parts can be imported to India without the prior permission of the DGCA. Any import of a drone prototype or drone parts will need to comply with the import regulations notified by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade which includes receiving import clearance, obtaining a unique prototype category system identification number, and certificate of manufacture and airworthiness for the prototype UAS. It would also be illegal to use a drone prototype developed for research and development purposes for any commercial applications.
Steps to Get Your Drone Prototype Approved.
I. Get the prototype category system along with its design tested by a government-authorized laboratory. There will be a fee applicable for this procedure.
II. The test flights will be carried out only under the direct supervision of an appropriately-licensed remote pilot and restricted up to a height of 15 meters in uncontrolled airspace and at least 50 meters away from uninvolved personnel.
III. If the test report is satisfactory, the DGCA may issue a certificate of manufacture and airworthiness for the specific type and class of drone for manufacture or import, as the case may be, to the authorized applicant.
IV. Each compliant category will be assigned a Unique Identification Number (UIN) and given a Unique Identification Certificate by the DGCA.
V. In addition to the UIN, this certificate will spell out the category, class, model number, manufacturer’s name with a serial number, year of manufacture, and date of registration of the drone.
VI. All categories, except the Nano category, need to be equipped with an electronic identification based on their UIN.
6. Rules for Drone Maintenance in India
A. It is necessary to provide a detailed maintenance manual that specifies all the requirements and procedures for the healthy functioning of a drone.
B. The drone manufacturer/importer will need to establish authorized maintenance centers in the country and provide the details of the same to the DGCA for safety oversight.
C. The ones who are supposed to train the personnel authorized to undertake such maintenance also fall under the category of the drone manufacturer or importer.
D. It must be ensured that no drone is operated without a ‘certificate of maintenance’ i.e. issued after each maintenance, repair, or modification.
E. No drone should be operated after it has completed its life span as specified by the manufacturer.
Are you someone aspiring to be a part of the drone industry or looking forward to importing or manufacturing drones in the country? Then make sure you have the rules enlisted above in mind!
Let us all abide by the rules and regulations laid by the Government of India and make our country a safer place for the drone industry to brew.
Checkout DGCA Portal here!