The newly released UAS Rules on 12th March 2021 have stated certain guidelines for the import of drones in India. Given below is a step-by-step process of how to import a drone in India. While it is not possible to import non-compliant UAVs yet, one can import prototype drones and compliant UAVs.
Note: For format of the application forms, refer to the official publication here.
Authorization of Importerer
The first step is the same as the Manufacturers’. To import a drone, you will have to be recognized as an authorized importer by the DGCA. Submit the UA-1 application of authorization. This step may require a security clearance number if the DGCA requests one. Upon a request, get a security clearance from the concerned ministry and proceed with the application. Once the application is successfully accepted, you will receive a Unique Authorization Number which will be used in obtaining import clearances.
Obtaining an Import Clearance
There are only two types of drones that can be imported in India. The first, a prototype UAV developed for the purpose of sale and operation in India. Secondly, a compliant UAV.
Importing a Prototype UAV
Prototype UAVs can be imported in India if they follow the hardware specifications mentioned by the UAS Rules. To begin, an applicant must submit a UA-6 form of import clearance for prototype UAS. Again, in this step, a security clearance may be necessary as specified by the DGCA.
On successful acceptance of the UA-6 form, you can import the prototype UAV into India for the purpose of NPNT-certification. Once imported, the importer needs to obtain an Equipment Type Approval (ETA). After an ETA has been obtained, one needs to apply for a Unique Prototype Identification Number through form UA-2. Once the applicant has obtained a Unique Prototype ID number, they can follow through the remaining manufacturer processes mentioned here.
Importing a Compliant UAV
Importing a compliant UAV is similar to importing a prototype UAV. Firstly, you must submit a UA-7 form of import clearance for compliant UAS. This step may warrant security clearance. In this step, one also needs to submit the ETA and Certificate of Airworthiness and Manufacturer of the drone.
On successful acceptance of the UA-7 form, you can proceed to import the compliant UAV into India. Once imported, the importer must obtain a certificate of conformance (COC) from the manufacturer. The next step is to create a Manufacturer Profile on Digital Sky, upload all the permissions and documents, and get your drone listed. Once, listed, the drone can then be registered, sold, and operated.
Importing Drone Parts and Components
Pilots, operators, and manufacturers can import drone components and parts from a foreign manufacturer. To begin, you must be an authorized importer following the UA-1 form. Once registered, you must fill a UA-8 application. In the application, you will be required to enter your unique authorization number. Drone components can be imported for three specified purposes: Manufacturer, Research and Development, and Maintenance. If you’re a manufacturer, you will have to upload your Certificate of Airworthiness and manufacturer authorization. For research and development, applicants will be required to enter the unique prototype ID of their drone along with R & D authorization. Lastly, for maintenance of the drone, applicants need to upload an ownership authorization and Certificate of Airworthiness of the drone. After submitting the application, the DGCA will analyze the component being imported and the purpose of import. If satisfactory, the applicant will receive import clearance to import the component.
Can a Non-Compliant or Nano Drone be Imported?
No, a non-NPNT compliant drone cannot be imported into India. A drone needs to have a valid Certificate of Airworthiness to be imported in India. Currently, there is no consumer drone that can be imported in India. This means all DJI drones or Parrot drones cannot be imported.
Nano drones are exempt from NPNT regulations and do not require registration. Although nano drones have more liberty than other classes, they have a speed and altitude restriction. Nano drones cannot be flown at speeds greater than 15m/s and a maximum altitude of 15 meters. Additionally, a nano drone should always be at a maximum transmission range of 100 meters from the pilot. If these restrictions are not met, the nano drone will then be classified as a micro drone. As of now, all nano drones available in the market do not follow these restrictions. Therefore a DJI Mini or Mini 2 cannot be imported to India unless it has a Certificate of Airworthiness.
The import regulations for drones are only favorable for industrial applications. Consumer drones from drone giants like DJI, Parrot, and Skydio cannot be imported unless they are specifically made NPNT-compliant by the respective manufacturers.
The restrictions around Nano drones prevent even the most regulation-exempt drones like the DJI Mini to be imported. This leaves a lot of flagship drones completely inaccessible to Indian drone pilots, thereby delaying the development of the consumer drone market in India. A liberalization on at least some import restrictions drones could help in the long run.