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Editorial Articles


Issue no 45, 5 - 11 February 2022

 

India’s Regulatory Landscape for Commercial Usage of Drones

In March 2021, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) published the UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Rules, 2021. They were perceived by the academia, Start-Ups, end-users and other stakeholders as being restrictive in nature as they involved considerable paper-work, required permissions for every drone flight and very few “free to fly” green zones were available. Based on the feedback, the Government decided to repeal the UAS Rules, 2021 and replace the same with the liberalised Drone Rules, 2021.

The government estimates that the drones and drone components manufacturing industry may see an investment of over Rs 5,000 crore over the next three years. The annual sales turnover of the drone manufacturing industry is projected to reach Rs 900 crore in FY 2023-24, generating over 10,000 direct jobs over the next three years. The drone services industry (operations, logistics, data processing, traffic management etc.) is far bigger in scale. It is expected to grow to over Rs 30,000 crore in next three years and is expected to generate over 5 lakh jobs in three years

DRONE RULES, 2021

Forms, Fees and Approvals

·         As compared to 25 forms that were mandatory earlier, anyone seeking to operate drones now needs to fill only 5 forms.

·         Total number of fees to be paid has been reduced to just 4 as compared to 72 earlier.

·         The quantum of fees, which was earlier linked to the size of drone, has been reduced and delinked from the size.

·         The ambit of these rules has been increased to cover drones up to 500 kg in weight from 300 kg earlier, thereby bringing drone taxis under the fray too.

·         The following approvals are no longer required:

·         Unique Authorisation Number

·         Unique Prototype Identification Number

·         Certificate of Manufacturing and Airworthiness

·         Certificate of Conformance

·         Certificate of Maintenance

·         Import Clearance

·         Acceptance of Existing Drones

·         Operator Permit

·         Authorisation of R&D Organization

·         Student Remote Pilot Licence

·         Remote Pilot Instructor Authorization

·         Drone Port Authorization

 

DIGITALSKY PLATFORM

DigitalSky, which was first unveiled in December 2018, has been revamped to become compliant with India’s new drone policy. The platform serves as:

·         Single window platform for all required clearances

·         Minimal human interface. Most permission is selfgenerated.

·         Interactive airspace map showing three zones — yellow, green and red to tell drone operators where they can and cannot fly their aircraft systems

 

DRONE PILOT LICENSE

·         DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) prescribes drone training requirements, oversees drone schools and provides pilot licenses online.

·         Remote pilot license is issued by DGCA within 15 days of the pilot receiving the remote pilot certificate from the authorised drone school through the digital sky platform.

·         Remote pilot license not required for micro drones (for non-commercial use) and nano drones. Remote Pilot Licence not required by R&D entities operating drones in own or rented premises, located in a green zone.

 

DRONES TESTING

·         Testing of drones for issuance of Type Certificate is carried out by Quality Council of India or authorised testing entities.

·         Type Certificate is required only when a drone is to be operated in India.

·         Manufacturers and importers may generate their drones’ Unique Identification Number on the digital sky platform through the self-certification route.

·         Importing and manufacturing drones purely for exports are exempt from Type Certification and Unique Identification Number.

·         Nano and model drones (made for research or recreation purposes) are exempt from Type Certification.

·         Easier process has been specified for transfer and deregistration of drones through the DigitalSky platform.

 

DRONE CERTIFICATION SCHEME

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) further liberalised the drone certification scheme (DCS) on 26 January 2022 with the aim to make type-certification of drones simpler, faster and transparent. Key features of the scheme are:

·         Indigenous manufacturers, assemblers and importers will have to submit data and test results on drone weight, type of launch and recovery mechanism installed, speed, range, endurance, battery performance, the material used in construction.

·         The application can be submitted on the DigitalSky Platform.

·         The certification will be overseen by the Quality Control of India (QCI) and aided by a multi-stakeholder steering committee of government and industry.

·         The process will now ensure minimum requirements for airworthiness—safety and security requirements for drones.

·         This will encourage enthusiasts to undertake the development and manufacturing of the five varieties of drones in India—a boost to the phenomenally successful Make in India campaign.

 

SECURITY CLEARANCE

·         Earlier, prior to issuance of a registration or licence, a security clearance was necessary. Now, the security clearance has been done away with.

·         Foreign companies are now allowed to operate drones in India.

·         Import of drones will continue to be regulated by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.

·         Industry will have to comply with safety and security features like ‘No Permission– No Takeoff’ (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geo-fencing etc. notified from time to time.

 

DRONE AIRSPACE MAP

India’s airspace map for drone operations was released on 24 September 2021. The map is available on DGCA’s digital sky platform https://digitalsky.dgca. gov.in/home. Key features of the map are:

·         Interactive map that demarcates the Green, Yellow and Red Zones across the country.

·         Green zone is the airspace upto 400 feet that has not been designated as a red or yellow zone; and upto 200 feet above the area located between 8-12 km from the perimeter of an operational airport.

·         In green zones, no permission whatsoever is required for operating drones with an all-up weight upto 500 kg.

·         Yellow zone is the airspace above 400 feet in a designated green zone; above 200 feet in the area located between 8-12 km from the perimeter of an operational airport and above ground in the area located between 5-8 km from the perimeter of an operational airport.

·         Drone operations in yellow zone require permission from the concerned air traffic control authority – AAI, IAF, Navy, HAL etc. as the case may be.

·         Yellow zone has been reduced from 45 km earlier to 12 km from the airport perimeter.

·         Red zone is the ‘no-drone zone’ within which drones can be operated only after a permission from the Central Government.

·         The airspace map may be modified by authorised entities from time to time.

·         Anyone planning to operate a drone should mandatorily check the latest airspace map for any changes in zone boundaries.

·         The drone airspace map is freely available on the digital sky platform to all without any login requirements.

PLI SCHEME

The Central Government approved the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and drone components in September 2021. The PLI scheme along with the new drone rules are intended to catalyse super-normal growth in the drone sector. Key features of the scheme are:

·         The total amount allocated for the PLI scheme for drones and drone components is Rs 120 crore spread over three financial years. This amount is nearly double the combined turnover of all domestic drone manufacturers in FY 2020-21.

·         The incentive for an enterprise manufacturing drones and drone components shall be as high as 20% of the value addition made by it.

·         The Government has agreed to keep the PLI rate constant at 20% for all three years, an exceptional treatment given only to the drone industry. In PLI schemes for other sectors, the PLI rate reduces every year.

·         The Government has agreed to fix the minimum value addition norm at 40% of net sales for drones and drone components instead of 50%, another exceptional treatment given to the drone industry. This will allow widening the number of beneficiaries.

·         The value addition shall be calculated as the annual sales revenue from drones and drone components (net of GST) minus the purchase cost (net of GST) of drone and drone components.

·         The PLI scheme covers a wide variety of drone components: Airframe, propulsion systems (engine and electric), power systems, batteries and associated components, launch and recovery systems; Inertial Measurement Unit, Inertial Navigation System, flight control module, ground control station and associated components; Communications systems (radio frequency, transponders, satellite-based etc.) Cameras, sensors, spraying systems and related payload etc.; 'Detect and Avoid’ system, emergency recovery system, trackers etc. and other components critical for safety and security.

·         The list of eligible components may be expanded by the Government from time to time, as the drone technology evolves.

·         The Government has agreed to widen the coverage of the incentive scheme to include developers of drone-related IT products.

·         The Government has kept the eligibility norm for MSME and Startups in terms of annual sales turnover at a nominal level - INR 2 cr (for drones) and INR 50 lakhs (for drone components). This will allow widening the number of beneficiaries.

·         Eligibility norm for non-MSME companies in terms of annual sales turnover has been kept at INR 4 crore (for drones) and INR 1 crore (for drone components).

·         The incentive payable to a manufacturer of drones and drone components shall be simply one-fifth of the value addition.

·         PLI for a manufacturer shall be capped at 25% of total annual outlay. This will allow widening the number of beneficiaries.

·         In case a manufacturer fails to meet the threshold for the eligible value addition for a particular financial year, it will be allowed to claim the lost incentive in the subsequent year if it makes up the shortfall in the subsequent year.

 

DRONES IN AGRICULTURE

In a major boost to promote precision farming in India, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare issued guidelines on 22nd January 2022 to make drone technology affordable to the stakeholders of this sector. Key features of the guidelines are:

·         Upto 100% of the cost of agriculture drone or Rs. 10 lakhs, whichever is less, as grant for purchase of drones by the Farm Machinery Training & Testing Institutes, ICAR institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and State Agriculture Universities for taking up large scale demonstrations of this technology on the farmers’ fields.

·         The Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs) would be eligible to receive grant up to 75% of the cost of agriculture drone for its demonstrations on the farmers’ fields.

·         A contingency expenditure of Rs 6000 per hectare would be provided to implementing agencies that do not want to purchase drones but will hire drones for demonstrations from Custom Hiring Centres, Hi-tech Hubs, Drone Manufacturers and Start-Ups.

·         The contingent expenditure to implementing agencies that purchase drones for drone demonstrations would be limited to Rs 3000 per hectare. The financial assistance and grants would be available until March 31, 2023.

·         40% of the basic cost of drone and its attachments or Rs.4 lakhs, whichever less would be available as financial assistance for drone purchase by existing Custom Hiring Centers which are setup by Cooperative Society of Farmers, FPOs and Rural entrepreneurs.

·         The new CHCs or the Hi-tech Hubs that will be established by the Cooperative Societies of Farmers, FPOs and Rural entrepreneurs with financial assistance from SMAM, RKVY or any other Schemes can also include drone as one of the machines along with other agricultural machines in the projects of CHCs/Hi-tech Hubs.

·         Agriculture graduates establishing Custom Hiring Centers would be eligible to receive 50% of the basic cost of drone and its attachments or up to Rs 5 lakhs in grant support for drone purchases.

·         Rural entrepreneurs should have passed class tenth examination or its equivalent from a recognized Board; and should have remote pilot license from Institute specified by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) or from any authorized remote pilot training organization.

 

The subsidized purchase of agriculture drones for CHCs/Hitech Hubs will make the technology affordable, resulting in their widespread adoption. This would make drones more accessible to the common man in India and will also significantly encourage domestic drone production.

 

The Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has also brought out Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for use of Drone application with pesticides for crop protection in agricultural, forestry, non-cropped areas, etc. and for Drone Application in Spraying for Soil and Crop Nutrients. The demonstrating institutions and all the providers of agricultural services through drone application have to comply with these rules/regulations and SOPs.

 

Compiled by EN Team. (Source: PIB/AIR/DGCA/Invest India)