Draft Drone Rules, 2021

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    Recently, the Ministry of Civil Aviation released Draft Drone Rules, 2021, for public consultation.

    • The rules will replace the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021, notified on March 12, 2021.

    Key Points of New Rules

    • Number of forms to be filled, reduced: The number of forms to be filled to seek authorisation before operating a drone has been reduced from 25 to six.
    • Difference in commercial and classified use: 
      • While most drones will need a unique identification number, a certificate of airworthiness (delegated to Quality Council of India), a remote pilot licence for the person controlling the drone and prior permission
      • No such approvals will be required for drones used for research and development by entities and educational institutions recognised by the Central government, State governments or Union Territory Administrations, start-ups recognised by Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade and drone manufacturers having a Goods and Service Tax Identification Number.
    • Take off from previous rule: Unlike the previous rules, which required drone operators to have a principal place of business within India, and the chairman and at least two-thirds of its directors were required to be citizens of India, in the new proposed rules there are no such restrictions for foreign-owned companies registered in India.
    • Import regulation: Import of drones and drone components will be regulated by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.
    • Security Clearance needed: Drones will also not need security clearance before registration or licence issuance.
    • Digital sky platform: 
      • It is an initiative by MoCA to provide a secure and a scalable platform that supports drone technology frameworks, such as NPNT (no permission, no take-off), designed to enable flight permission digitally and managing unmanned aircraft operations and traffic efficiently.
      • Digital sky platform will also be developed as a business-friendly single-window online system with minimal human interference and most permissions will be self-generated.
    • Safety Features: The draft Drone Rules 2021 also have safety features such real-time tracking beacon, and geo-fencing, which are expected to be notified in future and a six-month lead time will be provided for compliance.
    • Airspace Map: 
      • The draft Drone Rules 2021 also state that an interactive airspace map with green, yellow, and red zones will be displayed on the digital sky platform:
        • While yellow zone has been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from nearby airport perimeter, 
        • No flight permission is required up to 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.
    • Micro Drones: No pilot licence will be required for micro drones used for non-commercial use, nano drones and for research and development (R&D) organizations operating such drones.
    • Drone Corridors: MoCA will also facilitate development of drone corridors for cargo deliveries and a drone promotion council will 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.

    Source: TH