To get a drone certified as NPNT compliant, a drone manufacturer must follow several steps. Starting with getting a prototype identification number to getting the prototype tested at a DGCA approved testing laboratory. The final step is the certification by Certification Bodies (CBs) accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB). In this article, we will cover the entire certification process for drones in India:

The Certification Process

1. Application for Certification

All drone manufacturers need to fill out the application form for certification and submit it for review. The application form should contain all the details of the drone (in the order prescribed by QCI).

Note: Further details like the fee for application, list of additional documents required, etc. will be made public by the CB. Therefore, contact the CB to which you intend to apply for further information.

Some of the essential documents required for the application are as follows:

  1. Detailed drawings (Structural airframe, 3D view, wiring diagram, pictures, etc.)
  2. Analysis Reports
  3. Test Report (Ground/ Flight)
  4. Manufacturing Process
  5. Material procurement record
  6. Consolidated hardware and software independently verified and validated
  7. RPA flight manual/ manufacturer’s operating manual
  8. Maintenance manual/ guidance/ procedure
  9. Maintenance inspection schedule/ overhaul interval
  10. User manual (Self-explanatory information booklet for end users) 
  11. Other relevant technical literature/ reports or any other requirements to meet the Certification Criteria as prescribed by the RPAS Scheme (e.g. NPNT compliance, equipment compliance etc.).

Once the application is submitted with all the necessary documents, it will be reviewed by the CB. If any discrepancies arise, it will be informed to the applicant within 7 days. After the application has been successfully accepted, the CB will move towards the Initial Evaluation phase.

Initial Evaluation

The initial evaluation will be conducted in two stages. Stage 1 is where the CB verifies and reviews the documents of the applicant. This stage can take 4-6 days to be completed. Stage 2 is an on-site evaluation of the RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) or drone. The second stage can take 6-8 days to be completed.

Timings and date of Initial evaluation shall be fixed in consultation with the applicant, ensuring that the complete evaluation including the flight test is carried out. After the CB team has reviewed the documents of the applicant, it will prepare a report highlighting any discrepancies and the level of compliance of each drone model. Based on this report, the second stage evaluation will be conducted.

Stage 2 Evaluation

There are three primary aspects of the on-site, stage 2 evaluation:

  • On-site testing, flight testing and laboratory testing for each of the models of RPAS.
  • Software and firmware shall be evaluated for safety and security requirements in an Government approved/NABL accredited laboratory.
  • The CB team shall collect the flight logs and other information for validation/verification downloaded and provided to them by the manufacturer.

Manufacturers are required to comply and provide supporting information relating to architecture, design, and source code to enable the CB team to efficiently evaluate the software and firmware. Additionally, manufacturers must download flight logs after the test flight and submit them to the CB team.

Final Evaluation

The final evaluation is a re-check phase for all the information gathered in stages 1 and 2 and during independent software and firmware testing. This stage will analyze all the results and ascertain if all the certification criteria have been met.

The final evaluation shall be carried out by competent personnel, duly authorized for this function. The team leader designated for the conduct of Initial Evaluation may also be authorized for this activity.

Review and Certification

Lastly, an independent review shall be carried out by a person or committee authorized for this purpose. To put it into perspective, this review is like a second opinion from a competent third-party source. If all the requirements are fulfilled, the independent committee will make a recommendation (negative or positive) and indicate it to the certification body.

The certification body will then grant certification for the models of RPAS applied for by the applicant. A certificate of conformity is also issued for the RPAS model. The certificate of conformance is required to register on the Digital Sky platform. For further details on the certification process, refer to this official document released by QCI.
As of now, there are only two approved certification bodies available in India. To learn about the complete legal process for drone manufacturers from scratch, visit here.