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With the Union ministry of civil aviation’s new Drone Rules 2021, India is embracing a more liberal approach to drones. The new rules will be replacing the more rigid Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rules 2021.

Till 2018, Indian drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) were struggling to fly. It was in 2018 September that Indian drones got legitimacy with Drone Regulations 1.0. As is the natural course of regulations, those were quite strict and unyielding.

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The new rules come as a relief to stakeholders and the drone community.

IT industry body NASSCOM released a statement saying the new rules will ‘usher in fresh growth opportunities and enable startups and SMEs to create innovative use cases and applications in various sectors like e-commerce, mining and emergency response,

“We welcome the government’s decision to liberalise norms for operating Drones in the country for both commercial and non-commercial purposes under the new Drone Rules, 2021,” Nasscom said in a statement.

The new rules come as a relief to stakeholders and the drone community

It further added that apart from new growth, the move will facilitate startups and SMEs to form ground-breaking use cases in sectors such as e-commerce, mining, healthcare, emergency response and logistics.

Easing the Flight Rules

The intention behind the new rules has been to tighten compliance but loosen bureaucratic hurdles to fly drones in India. For example, unless exempted, no one can operate drones without unique identification numbers as well as feeding the requisite details on the digital sky platform.

At the same time, the need for certain approvals have been abolished, which includes certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permits, authorisation of R&D organisation, and student remote pilot licence.

The intention behind the new rules has been to tighten compliance but loosen bureaucratic hurdles to fly drones in India

In addition, now no flight permission is needed for up to 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the 8-12 km area from the airport perimeter. The fee to operate a drone has also reduced, and size of the drone doesn’t matter either.

Drones are now allowed to carry up to 500 kgs to include heavy payload-carrying drones and drone taxis. Earlier, the number was 300 kgs.

The number of forms and permissions needed to register or issue a licence has come down from 25 to 5. In fact, no need for a pilot licence for micro drones (for non-commercial use), nano drones, and for R&D organisations.

Drones are ‘A-wing’

Along with easier rules for flying drones, plans are also afoot to create drone corridors for cargo deliveries through drones. Moreover, there is to be a drone promotion council to enable a drone-friendly regulatory regime.

There are also no restrictions on drone operations by foreign-owned companies, which are registered in India. In fact, a digital sky platform is being built for a business-friendly single-window online system.

Drone usage is already in the wings for different parts of India.

The Telangana government has tied up with Marut Drones, a city-based startup, to launch a drone-based afforestation project called ‘Hara Bahara’. It will entail dropping seed balls in barren and empty forest lands to grow 50 lakh trees in about 12,000 hectares of land.

Similarly, in UP, the United Kingdom-India Business Council (UKIBC) announced its intention to collaborate with the state government to modernise and upgrade the security forces by investing in cutting-edge technology, part of which will be drones.

According to The Print, as drones become a crucial part of modern warfare, the Indian Air Force is planning to put forward a Request for Proposal (RFP) to five homegrown startups for two sets of swarm drones of a tune of INR 100 crore. Such drones have the capacity to conduct punitive action as well as carry heavy load.

The five startups include NewSpace Research and Technologies, Veda Defence Systems Pvt Ltd, Raphe mPhibr Pvt Ltd, Dhaksha Unmanned Systems Pvt Ltd, and Flaire Unmanned Systems Pvt Ltd.

Recent Drones Development

Drone usage has been proliferating over the years in India. Recently, in the wake of the Supreme Court directive to get rid of illegal construction on Gurgaon’s Aravali area, where 250 acres of land has been encroached, a drone survey covering 7,019 hectares was completed, resulting in show cause notices for owners of more than 550 illegal structures in the eco-sensitive area.

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A week before passing the new rules, the government gave conditional permission to ten organisations to use drones for several purposes for a year. This included Mahindra and Mahindra, Steel Authority of India (SAIL), and Bayer Crop Science, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, and Pune and National Health Mission (Mumbai).


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