Since 2018, when the first drone rules titled Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) came out, international drone companies such as DJI have been closed to the Indian drone market. Regulatory hurdles such as the NPNT requirement, import restrictions, and the strict airworthiness standards made it extremely challenging for not only international drone companies but domestic ones as well. However, India’s latest draft drone rules could pave the way for the launch of DJI drones in India.

Overcoming Legal Challenges

DJI Air 2S
DJI’s latest flagship drone, the Air 2S. | Source: DJI

Prior to the draft drone rules, the Indian drone industry had to follow two sets of regulations. The first one CAR that came out in 2018. Secondly, the UAS Rules superseded the CAR in March 2021. Either way, both regulations were restrictive and hampered the progress of the Indian drone industry.

After plenty of feedback from drone industry spokespersons, the Indian government decided to release a draft of a completely new set of drone regulations in July 2021. These regulations are meant to promote the growth of the industry while liberalizing the Indian market to foreign drone manufacturers. Read more about the draft drone rules here.

DJI has not been very happy about India’s drone policies since 2018. Ever since the Government brought the NPNT policy, DJI has strictly spoken against it, calling it overly restrictive and complicated. Following that, the company also released a statement in 2019 stating that it will not make NPNT-compliant drones for India.

After the release of the draft, DJI is ‘appreciative’ of the draft rules and hopes to be a part of India’s new drone chapter. In a statement given to TOI, DJI said “DJI applauds the government’s plans to liberalise and open the drone market. Drones are driving economic growth and boosting worker productivity and safety across the globe…. India stands to see similar benefits from the adoption of this exciting new technology. While it is too early for definitive plans, DJI would hope to be part of this exciting new chapter. We will continue to watch how the draft rules develop with interest and hopes for India’s future,”

The NPNT Struggle

While DJI has not officially signaled for a launch in India, it is safe to say that it is a possibility. Despite DJI’s acknowledgment, the company’s policy lead for India and Sri Lanka Mitul Arora told MediaNama that the Indian government should explore technologies such as Remote ID instead of mandating the NPNT.

In the latest draft rules, there are three criteria for drone compliance:

  1. NPNT firmware and hardware
  2. Remote ID
  3. Geo-fencing

While remote ID and geo-fencing features are being implemented internationally, NPNT is a proprietary technology only limited to India. Mr. Arora mentioned that remote ID is much simpler than NPNT and can be implemented on almost any drone with a firmware update. In a statement given to MediaNama he added, “The remote identification system along with geofencing national security sites and airports is a good way to advance the drone industry within the Indian market in a way that is safe and secure,”

The draft drone rules are still in their developmental phase. The DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) is accepting comments from drone industry leaders and spokespersons until 5th August 2021. Based on the recommendations made by the industry it is possible that many regulatory wrinkles could be ironed out. If brought into implementation, this could potentially result in a liberal drone policy and DJI’s first break into the Indian market.