The Government of India finalized the new drone regulations called UAS Rules on 12th March 2021. The new regulations put in place several layers of protocols to be followed by drone owners, operators, pilots, manufacturers, and importers. To get their drone certified with the DGCA, one needs to follow several layers of protocols. Let us look at the processes involved for a drone manufacturer in India:
Given below is the overview of the entire process of drone manufacturer authorization and drone certification:
How to Become an Authorized Drone Manufacturer?
The first step to becoming a drone manufacturer in India is applying for authorization to the DGCA. The applicant must fill out the UA-1 form and submit it to the DGCA. The fee for the authorization of a manufacturer is Rs.10,000. According to the regulations, for ‘applicable cases’ the DGCA may direct the applicant to obtain a security clearance.
In the case of corporate organizations, this clearance is applicable to the company’s directors and other high position officials. However, the DGCA has not clearly defined the applicability of this clearance. Additionally, government bodies are exempt from such clearances. Once the authorization number is granted, it will remain valid for a maximum period of 10 years.
Create a Prototype of your UAV
The next step towards manufacturing a drone is creating and getting the prototype approved. To get a drone prototype approved, manufacturers will have to strictly adhere to the DGCA’s technical requirements. Features such as NPNT compliance, RTH (Return to Home), GNSS receiver, and geofencing are crucial for the approval process. The DGCA may specify additional technical requirements at the time of the application. Before the approval, the drone manufacturer must have an Equipment Type Approval (ETA) from the Wireless Planning & Coordination (WPC) Wing for their drone. Obtaining an ETA can take upwards of a month. Therefore, applying for an ETA early on in the process can save manufacturers some time.
Unique Prototype Identification Number
Once manufacturers receive an ETA for their drone, they can apply for a Unique Prototype Identification Number. This number is essential to get a Certificate of Airworthiness. Thus, manufacturers must fill the UA-2 form. The following are the documents required to obtain a Unique Prototype ID:
- Three-view drawing of Prototype
- General arrangement/ layout drawing
- ETA from WPC
- Basic data
- Equipment details
- Description of design features
- Operating characteristics, and
- Proposed operating limitations
Certificate of Manufacturer and Airworthiness
This is the most important step for drone manufacturers. An Airworthiness certificate will certify your drone as NPNT compliant which can then be listed on Digital Sky, sold, and operated. However the process to get this certification may seem arduously long. Drone manufacturers must submit a UA-3 application form to the DGCA if their drone conforms to all the technical requirements stated under the regulations, and the manufacturer has a valid Unique Prototype ID. There are 16 technical requirements that manufacturers must follow for their applications to be approved. However, nano and micro drones are exempt from certain conditions. Read the entire list of the requirements on Page 86, sub-rule (8), of the official publication.
In the UA-3 application form manufacturers can list three testing laboratories of their preference. However, DGCA will allot a suitable testing laboratory to a manufacturer for the RPAS demonstration. Currently, there are only a handful of testing laboratories available in India. This not only reduces the options available to drone manufacturers but also delays the entire process. When a manufacturer is allotted a testing lab, they must produce the UAV prototype along with design documents for demonstration at the lab.
The testing lab will then compile a report of the UAV demonstration and send it to the DGCA. The DGCA will analyze the report and only upon satisfaction issue a Certificate of Manufacture and Airworthiness.
Certificate of Conformance
The Certificate of Conformance (COC) is the final step in the Airworthiness process. The COC is released by a drone manufacturer upon being satisfied that the drone conforms to the certificate of manufacture and airworthiness. The manufacturer can then produce one or more drones of the same class and type. The COC is also a necessary document for listing your RPAS on Digital Sky. The COC can be issued in a format specified under form UA-4.
Manufacturer Profile and Drone Registration
Now that the manufacturer has obtained all necessary certification and approvals, they can create a Manufacturer Profile on the Digital Sky platform. Create a profile, and add the details of your RPAS and organization. Then, upload scanned copies of all the approvals and certifications. This information will be verified by the DGCA. Once verified, your drone will be listed under the Certified RPAS section on Digital Sky.
Before a drone is sold to an operator, it must be registered with the DGCA. To register a drone, the manufacturer would require an Operator ID. This ID is of the operator to whom the drone is being sold or leased to. Once the drone has been registered using this ID, it can then be sold or leased to the operator. The drone operator can then continue with the UIN process.
In summary, the process of getting a drone manufactured and certified in India is time-consuming and riddled with layers of approvals and certificates. Important structures such as testing labs are largely absent. This has long delayed the progress of the drone industry in India. As of now, there are 21 certified drones in India and most are meant for industrial application. A relaxation on strict technical requirements for Airworthiness may also help the recreational drone sector to boom.