In the newly finalized drone regulations, titled UAS Rules 2021, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has outlined the inclusion of drone ports and UTM in the Indian drone infrastructure. Drone ports, if integrated successfully, could prove to be vital in the Indian drone ecosystem. Let us take a look at the regulations surrounding drone ports and UTM in India:

What are Drone Ports?

Drone ports are essentially airports for drones. Drone ports will act as key infrastructures in integrating commercial drone delivery operations. Additionally, drone ports will also aid passenger drone travel in the near future. Several companies like Zomato and Dunzo have been testing drones for commercial deliveries. With the inclusion of drone ports in the UAS Rules 2021, it may prove to be an advantage for delivery drones in the coming years. Drone ports are already in construction in places like Nevada, Rwanda, and Las Vegas.

Who can establish a Drone Port?

Any citizen of India can establish a drone port with valid permits and authorizations from the DGCA. The eligibility criteria for the grant of a drone port license is as follows:

  1. an individual who is–
    1. a citizen of India, and
    1. 18 years of age or more; or
  2. a company or a body corporate provided that –
    1. it is registered and has its principal place of business within India, and
    1. it meets the equity holding criteria specified by the Central Government from time to time;
  3. A firm or an association of persons or body of individuals or a local authority or any legal entity having its principal place of business within India

Individuals who meet the above mentioned criteria can apply for a drone port license.

Drone Port License

To obtain a drone port license the applicant must submit the UA-19 form to the DGCA. In the application, you must enter your identification details along with the following documents:

  • Land and property details
  • No Objection Certificate from the concerned authorities
  • Drone Port manual

DGCA may direct applicants to obtain additional security clearance from the concerned ministry. Then, the applicant will have to submit the clearance along with the application. The fee for the drone port license is Rs.10,000. Once granted the license will remain valid for a maximum period of 10 years.

What is UTM?

UTM (UAS Traffic Management) is a drone fleet management service. The goal of UTM is to create a system that can integrate drones safely and efficiently into air traffic that is already flying in low-altitude airspace. When delivery drones and passenger drones begin operations in the near future, UTMs will ensure that they do not interfere with operations of manned aircrafts. To make commercial drone operations feasible in the Indian airspace, the DGCA has introduced regulations for the establishment of UTM services.

How to Establish a UTM Service

Any organization authorized by the Central Government or a Government body may establish a UTM service in the Indian airspace. To begin, the organization must apply for a UTM license by submitting an application through form UA-20. However, if an individual seeks to obtain a UTM license, he/she can do so by submitting the UA-21 form. In the case of an individual applicant, the individual:

  • Must be 21 years or older.
  • The individual shall have Bachelors‘ degree in Science with Physics or Mathematics or with Electronics and Telecommunication or with Computer Science or an equivalent degree from a recognized university.
  • Should submit a certificate of medical fitness as directed by the DGCA.
  • Should submit a certificate of training appropriate to the unmanned aircraft system traffic management service from an authorized training organization.
  • Should pass an examination as per syllabus specified and conducted by the DGCA.

UTM service providers shall provide for registration, pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight services to manned and unmanned aircraft operators as specified by the DGCA. Additionally, a UTM service provider will only operate up to the altitude specified by the DGCA or any other organization authorized by the Central Government. While filling out the UA-20 form, the applicant must fulfill the following operational requirements:

  1. Classification of UTM Airspace;
  2. Rules of the Air;
  3. Separation Standards between unmanned aircraft and between manned and unmanned aircraft;
  4. Minimum Terrain and Obstacle Clearance Standards for UA;
  5. Minimum Clearance Standards for Safety of Uninvolved Persons;
  6. Minimum Clearance Standards for Noise Abatement;
  7. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  8. Emergency Handling Procedures

Technical requirements for UTM include UTM architecture, technical standards for communication, communication protocols, etc. Additional technical requirements may be specified later by the DGCA. The fee for obtaining a UTM service provider license is Rs.10,000.

UTM Training Organization

Any individual seeking to work as a UTM service personnel must undergo training from an authorized UTM training organization. To become an authorized UTM training organization, an organization must fill up a UA-22 form.

The applicant must submit the Training and Procedures Manual and Operational Manual for unmanned aircraft system traffic management training organization along with the application. Once the license is granted, the training organization will be subjected to inspection and oversight from the DGCA.