THE LEGAL VADE MECUM OF DRONES IN INDIA
In 2021, the Government of India is determined the enforcement of the regulatory framework, so to achieve the Indian drone ecosystem a new technical standard of becoming more and more compliant for drone operations.
NATIONAL COUNTER ROGUE DRONE GUIDELINES
In 2019, Mo.CA (Ministry of Civil Aviation) released the NCRD(National Counter Rogue Drone) Guidelines intending to concentrate on the apparent national security issues regarding law and order that were anticipated due to the operation of unregulated and unchecked UAVs.
The NCRD Guidelines includes:
- Laying out guidelines for assessing the drone threat
- Awareness about the various technologies involved in handling drone threat
- Ready reckoner for anti-drone measures
- Understanding the multi-dimensionality of drone threats
One-time voluntary disclosure of unregulated drones through a website launched for granting permission for aerial photography/ remote sensing survey and registration of the Drone.
The Ministry of Defence (“MoD”) has introduced a web portalwww.modnoc.ncog.gov.into streamline the procedure of providing the final permission that is in form of a No Objection Certificate (“NOC”). The portal will be reducing the time usually taken in issuing NOC from MoD by various vendors engaged by state governments/public sector undertakings/autonomous bodies. Furthermore, it simplifies the discovery of unregulated and non-compliant drones. The voluntary disclosure is applicable for all drones including prototypes, toys, etc.
Hence, an online portal https://digitalsky.dgca.gov.in can be used by any such person who owns non-compliant drones and submits the drone enlistment form for voluntary disclosure. The voluntary disclosure can be undertaken in two parts. So, the procedure is as follows:
- The drone owner’s information is uploaded and an Ownership Acknowledgement Number (“OAN”) will be received by the owner.
- Now OAN is used by the owner to upload the drone-related information and a Drone Acknowledgement Number (“DAN”) will be allotted to the Drone.
A Drone owner may have multiple drones and each drone will require a fresh enlistment but an OAN will remain the same to enlist all drones and each drone will get a separate DAN.
However, without a valid DAN or OAN, the ownership of drone(s) in India shall invite penal actions. Furthermore, still to operate a drone(s) in India, after having the DAN or OAN shall require, one should be in compliance with the Drone Rules and Regulations, 2021.
NUANCES OF THE DRONE RULES AND REGULATIONS, 2021
The Drone Rules and Regulations were updated in 2021 and on the premise of self-certification, trust, and non-intrusive monitoring, for deliveries of cargo the new drone corridors will be developed, and to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime the set-up of a drone promotion council.
In Drone Rules, 2021 the coverage of drones is increased to 500 kg including drone taxis as well. The number of forms now required is6(six) from a previous number of 25(twenty-five). So now there is a reduction of a fee to nominal levels without any linkage with the size of the drone, and the approvals for a certificate of maintenance, import clearance, etc are abolished as well a six-month time period will be provided for compliance.
Digital sky will be a business-friendly single-window online system with minimal human interface and self-generated permissions with a few exceptions. It will also have an interactive airspace map with yellow, green, and red zones. The yellow zone will be 12 km from the airport perimeter or no-fly zone. Green zones are the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter or no-fly zone. The red zone is beyond Indian territory.
In the Research & Development now the requirement pilot license for micro and nano drones (for non-commercial use) is not needed. However, authorized drone schools shall be required to carry drone training and testing.
Prior Restrictions on foreign-owned companies registered in India on drone operations have been removed. Even though drones imported and their imported components will be regulated now but there will be no requirement of security clearance is not required.
Penalties have been levied on the failure of compliance with several acts against the guidelines such as flying a drone without a license and permit, flying them over prohibited areas, etc. The maximum penalty is reduced to Rs 1 lakh, for instance, flying an unmanned aircraft over no operation area will attract a penalty of Rs 50,000, however, not applicable to penalties in respect of violation of other laws for instance penalties extend up to Rs 5 lakh for the manufacturers of drones.
TYPES OF DRONES/UAVs
The categorization of drones in India is based on the size of the drone and the ability to fly a drone is also subject to the category of drone and the corresponding permit and license needed for it. The categories are as follows:
Nano Drones: Drones weighing less than or equal to 250 grams and to fly such drones no license or permit is needed.
Micro and Small Drones: Drones weighing more than 250 grams but less than 2 kg are micro drones. UAVs(Unmanned aerial vehicles) weighing more than 2 kg but under 25 kg are small drones. So, to Pilot such drones, the pilot shall have UAS Operator Permit-I (UAOP-I) to follow the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for all flying purposes limited to the visual line of sight without any payload.
Medium and Large Drones: The UAVs weighing more than 25 kg but less than 150 kg are medium drones, while the UAVs weighing more than 150 kg are large drones. So, to Pilot such drones, the pilot shall have UAS Operator Permit-II (UAOP-II) and follow the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). For instance, the aforementioned drones cannot be flown within closed spaces and before flying require prior clearance from Air Traffic and Air Defence Control.
UAOP-II can also use micro and small drones and are required to implement Safety Management System (SMS) as it permits the carriage of goods as well as dangerous goods for ensuring safe operation as per the Aircraft (Carriage of Dangerous Goods) Rules, 2003. Both UAOP-I and UAOP-II are valid for 10 years.
The minimum qualifications for applicants to obtain licenses are as follows: –
The applicants should have passed class 10th or its equivalent and shall belong to 18 to 65 years of age for commercial activity. Furthermore, a medical examination specified by DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation)and a background check is also a pre-requisite.
THE TYPES OF LICENSES ISSUED FOR AN OPERATOR’S PERMIT
Student Remote Pilot License: Student Remote Pilot License is issued for a fee by an authorized training organization as authorized by DGCA. It is valid for a maximum period of 5(five) years from the date of issuance and can be renewed for an additional period of 2(two) years.
Remote Pilot License: These licenses are issued based on training and skill tests. It is issued for a fee by the DGCA and is valid for 10 years from the date of issuance and can be renewed for another 10(ten) years.
As one can appreciate, drones are fast-tracking the next big technology revolution around the globe as they are tiny, agile, and able to access areas that would be near impossible for humans. They provide simple drone photography to delivering small payloads from one place to another, spraying insecticides over a field, and installing sensors deep in the jungles for forest monitoring are just a few of the uses and advantages of drones. So, therefore, drones are no longer being looked at exclusively for military use but rather as a game-changing innovation for civilian use as well.
Technology is the way of the future; this is just like any other technology which has a massive future ahead as it is still in its adolescent age and its use depends largely on the intentions of the human operating it. This means drones can be used for illegal or destructive activities, such as the recent drone attack at the Indian Air Force station in Jammu but also the drone regulations in India are continuously evolving based on businesses in India continue to evolve.
 THE GAZETTE OF INDIA, EXTRAORDINARY, PART II, SECTION 3, SUB-SECTION (i) GOVERNMENT OF INDIA MINISTRY OF CIVIL AVIATION, Counterrogue droneguidelinesNSCS
THE GAZETTE OF INDIA, EXTRAORDINARY, PART II, SECTION 3, SUB-SECTION (i)GOVERNMENT OF INDIA MINISTRY OF CIVIL AVIATION, The Drone Rules, 2021