The Ministry of Civil Aviation had published a draft of the new UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) rules on 2nd June 2020. The new drone regulations in India are titled UAS Rules 2021, which came into effect on 12th March 2021. These drone regulations will supersede the older CAR (Civil Aviation Regulations) that were announced in 2018. These rules will apply to:

  1. All registered/unregistered drones in India.
  2. Any person who is in possession or ownership of a drone, exporting, importing, manufacturing, trading, leasing, operating, transferring or maintaining a drone.

Let us take a look at what these regulations entails:

Categorization and Classification

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has categorized Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into three primary categories and five primary classes. UAS are categorized into:

  • Aeroplane
  • Rotorcraft
  • Hybrid  UAS

These three types of UAS are further sub-categorized based on their level of autonomy, i.e., remotely piloted UAS, model remotely piloted UAS, and fully autonomous UAS. Apart from these categories, each UAS is classified based on how much it weighs (including the payload). The classification of UAS is as follows:

  1. Nano Unmanned Aircraft: Less than or equal to 250 gram.
  2. Micro Unmanned Aircraft: Greater than 250 gram and less than or equal to 2 kilogram. Can only be flown up to 60 meters Above Ground Level (AGL) or a maximum speed of 25 meter per second.
  3. Small Unmanned Aircraft: Greater than 2 kilogram and less than or equal to 25 kilogram. Can only be flown up to 120 meters Above Ground Level (AGL) or a maximum speed of 25 meter per second.
  4. Medium Unmanned Aircraft: Greater than 25 kilogram and less than or equal to 150 kilogram;
  5. Large Unmanned Aircraft: Greater than 150 kilogram.

There is an additional higher classification for nano drones in case the following parameters are met:

  • Maximum speed is greater than 15 meters per second.
  • Maximum altitude of the drone is greater than 15 meters and the range is greater than 100 meters from the pilot.

Adding an RPAS and UIN Generation

According to the UAS Rules 2021, Part V, rule 18, an authorized UAS importer or manufacturer shall register their drone and obtain a UIN (Unique Identification Number) for the same (form UA-9). The DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) will only issue a UIN to NPNT-compliant drones with a valid certificate of manufacture and airworthiness and a certificate of conformance. Additionally, under rule 20, sub-clause 2, it is illegal to buy or sell unregistered drones (drones without UIN).

Therefore, any drone purchased after 12th March 2021, will have to be enlisted and registered by the manufacturer before sale. While creating an Operator’s Profile on Digital Sky, users have the option of adding an RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System). Here, operators will be required to enter the UIN obtained from their manufacturer. However, there’s also a provision for compliant drones that were purchased prior to the publication of the new regulations and do not have a UIN. Thus, for such drones, operators can generate new UINs on the Digital Sky platform.

Note: Nano drones do not require a UIN. However, all classes of drones must be enlisted on the Digital Sky Enlistment Portal.

Payment of Fees: All fee payments must be made on the BharatKosh website (https://bharatkosh.gov.in/). The UIN fees for each class of drone is as follows:

  1. Micro: Rs.200
  2. Small: Rs.500
  3. Medium: Rs.1,000
  4. Large: Rs.2,000

Remote Pilot License

Remote pilot license is an important permit without which an individual cannot fly a drone in India. Remote pilot license is required for drones classified as Small, Medium and Large. However, before an individual can apply for a remote pilot license, one must first hold a valid student pilot license and complete the required pilot training from a DGCA-approved drone pilot training center.

Note: For operation of Nano and Micro drones, there is no requirement of a Remote Pilot License.

Student Pilot License

A student pilot license is required to undergo training at an institute. It can be obtained from any authorized training institute. The eligibility for obtaining a student pilot license is:

  • The applicant must be 18 years or older
  • The applicant must have passed class X or its equivalent examination from a recognised Board.
  • The individual should pass a medical examination specified by the DGCA
  • The training institute shall perform a background check of the applicant and submit the report to the DGCA.
  • The applicant must pass an oral examination as per DGCA-specified syllabus.

Only on successful completion of the above mentioned eligibility criteria can a student pilot license be issued.

Validity: A student pilot license granted for a specific class and category of a drone will be valid only for 5 years. It can be renewed to an additional period of 2 years.

The student pilot must also obtain a valid Radio operators certificate of proficiency and license

endorsed for Aeromobile service issued or recognised by the central government under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Rules, 1954 before commencing flying training on Medium and Large class of unmanned aircraft and for flying in and around airports or in controlled airspace in case of Micro and Small class of unmanned aircraft.

Payment of Fees: All fee payments must be made on the BharatKosh website (https://bharatkosh.gov.in/). The Student Pilot License fees for each class of drone is as follows:

  1. Small: Rs.500
  2. Medium: Rs.1,000
  3. Large: Rs.1,500

Obtaining a Remote Pilot License

To obtain a remote pilot license the applicant must adhere to the following conditions:

  • The applicant must be 18+ years and less than 65 years of age.
  • The applicant must have passed class X or its equivalent examination from a recognised Board.
  • The individual should pass a medical examination specified by the DGCA
  • The applicant must submit a certificate of training and a skill test report appropriate to the class and category of the drone
  • The applicant must pass an examination as per DGCA-specified syllabus conducted by the DGCA.
  • The applicant must hold a valid Radio operators certificate of proficiency and license
  • endorsed for Aeromobile service issued or recognised by the central government under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Rules, 1954.

Validity: The remote pilot license shall be valid up to a period of 10 years. It can additionally be renewed for a maximum period of 10 years.

Payment of Fees: All fee payments must be made on the BharatKosh website (https://bharatkosh.gov.in/). The Remote Pilot License fees for each class of drone is as follows:

  1. Small: Rs.1,000
  2. Medium: Rs.2,000
  3. Large: Rs.3,000

UAOP

Apart from a remote pilot license, an individual is also required to have a UAOP (Unmanned Aircraft System Operator Permit) to legally fly a drone in India. There are two types of UAOP. The first one is needed for Small drones (UAOP Permit-1). Permit-1 holders can only fly their drones in visual line of sight and cannot carry goods for delivery.

The second permit (UAOP Permit-2) is needed for Medium and Large drone operations. Permit-2 holders can carry goods for delivery (however, delivery of goods through UAS is prohibited as of now). Additionally, Permit-2 holders must carry out operations with prior clearance from Air Traffic and Air Defence Control. Operators must also implement a Safety Management System (SMS) as a standard practice.

Validity: UAOPs are valid for a period of 10 years. UAOP is a  non transferable permit. It can be renewed for a maximum period of 10 years.

Payment of Fees: All fee payments must be made on the BharatKosh website (https://bharatkosh.gov.in/). The UAOP fees for each class of drone is as follows:

  1. Small: Rs.5,000
  2. Medium: Rs.10,000
  3. Large: Rs.25,000

Drone Ports

In the new UAS Rules 2021, there is an inclusion of a crucial UAS infrastructure called the drone port. A drone port is an ‘airport for drones’. Authorized and compliant drones can take-off, land, and be maintained at drone ports. The regulations mention that any eligible individual or company can apply for a drone port license and set up a drone port. The drone port license fee is Rs.10,000 and the authorization fee is Rs.2,000. Read more about the eligibility and additional clauses about drone ports in Part VII (Page 97) of the official publication.

UTM Service Providers

A UTM (Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management) service provider is another important element of the drone infrastructure. A UTM service provider manages and conducts hundreds of thousands of safe and secure drone operations in a given airspace. The provision for UTM service providers in the new rules states that any eligible corporation can obtain a valid UTM Service Provider license and begin operation. Additionally, any person desiring to become licensed unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) personnel shall undergo requisite training from an authorized unmanned aircraft system traffic management training organization.

Read more about UTM service providers in Part VIII (Page 98) of the official publication.

Penalties

The penalties mentioned in the new regulations is a much discussed topic among the drone community. The UAS Rules 2021 has levied heavy fines and punishments for defaulters. Some of the fines are given below:

  • Unauthorized import of a drone or its component: Rs. 25,000
  • Unauthorized manufacture of a drone: Rs. 50,000
  • Unauthorized buying or selling of a drone or its components: Rs. 25,000
  • Flying a drone without a remote pilot license: Rs. 25,000
  • Operating a drone without insurance: Rs. 10,000

Fines for companies have been raised up to 400% times the fines for individuals. To learn more about the penalties read Page 106 of the official publication.

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