Draft Drone Rules, 2021
17/07/2021

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Context:

  • Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has released the updated – The Drone Rules, 2021 for public consultation. The Drone Rules, 2021 will replace the UAS Rules 2021 (released on 12 March 2021).

About:

  • Approvals abolished: unique authorisation number, unique prototype identification number, certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, etc.
  • Number of forms reduced from 25 to 6.
  • Fee reduced to nominal levels. No linkage with the size of the drone.
  • Safety features like ‘No permission – no take-off’ (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geo-fencing etc. to be notified in future. A six-month lead time will be provided for compliance.
  • Digital sky platform shall be developed as a business-friendly single-window online system.
  • Interactive airspace map with green, yellow, and red zones will be displayed on the digital sky platform. Yellow zone reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter.
  • No flight permission required upto 400 feet in green zones and upto 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.
  • No pilot licence required for micro drones (for non-commercial use), nano drone and for R&D organisations.
  • No restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India.
  • Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also.
  • Maximum penalty under Drone Rules, 2021 reduced to INR 1 lakh. This shall, however, not apply to penalties in respect of violation of other laws.
  • Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
  • Drone promotion council to be set up to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime.

Significance of Drones:

  • Quality Aerial Imaging: Drones are excellent for taking high-quality 3D aerial photographs and video, and collecting vast amounts of imaging data. 
  • Precision: Since unmanned aerial vehicles use GPS (the Global Positioning System), they can be programmed and maneuvered accurately to precise locations. 
  • Easily Deployable: advances in control technology, most drones can be deployed and operated with relatively minimal experience. Combined with the relatively low cost of most models, drones are becoming accessible to a wide range of operators. 
  • Enhanced Movement: UAVs also have a greater range of movement than manned aircraft. They are able to fly lower and in more directions, allowing them to easily navigate traditionally hard-to-access areas.
  • Security: With the appropriate license, operators can use unmanned aerial vehicles to provide security and surveillance to private companies, sporting events, public gatherings, and other venues. 
  • Gather valuable data: Drones can also gather valuable data during and after natural disasters to aid in security and recovery efforts.

Challenges:

  • Clear Modus Operandi: Responsibility and division of work should be clear as to Who (the armed forces or the civilian forces) would be responsible for such mechanisms. It is a sub-tactical threat but requires a strategic response. 
  • Funding: Funding from the Government is a problem. Manufacturing at large scales and its deployment will require a lot of money and strategising.
  • Difficult to Differentiate: Counter strategy should be so strong that it is able to differentiate between a bird and an actual drone. Also, it should give enough warning to positively identify that it is not a bird, to fire. 
  • Easy Access: They are cheap, so anyone can have easy access to them.
  • Anonymous: Their anonymous nature is a big risk to know about the origin of the drone. Drone attacks can be launched from within as well. 
  • Swarm drones: Swarm drones, where scores of drones overwhelm and confuse detection systems, resulting in some of the drones sneaking through.

Conclusion:

  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation’s decision to liberalize the drone policy even after the recent drone incidents in Jammu showcases the government’s bold approach to promote the use of drones.
  • It focuses on the development of counter-drone technology to address the threat posed by rogue drones.
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