Drone-Unmanned Aircraft System Law in India

Anarba Groub

A drone is an unmanned hybrid aircraft system which runs without any pilot or passengers, also known as unmanned aviation vehicle (UAV). Nowadays, several Indian organisations are competing in the deployment of package delivery by drones. This mode of distribution will be especially handy for small packages. These remote aviation vehicles are generally used for security and search purposes, agricultural survey, forest monitoring, package delivery, photography, railway track mapping etc. The Ministry of Civil Aviation launched the Digital Sky Platform. Digital sky platform is the online portal hosted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for facilitating registration, licensing, training and other various services and activities for the administration of unmanned aircraft systems in India.

Characteristics of Drone

The shape and appearance of a drone depend on the technology behind the drone. The autonomy varies from autonomous operation to fully controlled by a remote pilot. 

Section 4(2) The Drone Rules 2021. This section states that aeroplane, rotorcraft and hybrid unmanned aircraft systems shall be further sub-categorised as follows:–– (a) remotely piloted aircraft system; (b) model remotely piloted aircraft system; and (c) autonomous unmanned aircraft system.

The size of drones ranges from small to the size of a commercial plane, and the weight of drones can vary from several grams to hundreds of kilograms.

Section 5 The Drone Rules 2021. This section classifies drones according to their weight which are as follows- (i) Nano unmanned aircraft system: weighing less than or equal to 250 grams; (b) Micro unmanned aircraft system: weighing more than 250 grams, but less than or equal to 2 kilograms; (c) Small unmanned aircraft system: weighing more than 2 kilograms, but less than or equal to 25 kilograms; (d) Medium unmanned aircraft system: weighing more than 25 kilograms, but less than or equal to 150 kilograms; and (e) Large unmanned aircraft system: weighing more than 150 kilograms.

A drone relies on battery cells, solar cells, and traditional airplane fuel as a source of energy. There are two types of technical characteristics of drone systems named fixed-wing systems and multirotor systems. Fixed wing is a phrase used mostly in the aviation industry to describe aircraft that generate lift by using fixed, static wings in conjunction with forward airspeed. In aviation, the term rotorcraft refers to aircraft that create lift via rotary wings. The traditional helicopter is an example of a rotorcraft. A rotorcraft may have one or more rotors. Drones with rotary systems usually always have multiple small rotors, which are required for stability, hence the name multi-rotor systems. 

Technology behind Drone

Drones can be operated remotely, usually via a smartphone or tablet. These UAVs are made of light composite material, which allows them to travel at high altitudes equipped with different technologies such as GPS, camera, LED, electronic speed controller, and Ultrasonic obstacle avoidance sensor. The technology that is used to make drone are very complexly designed to reduced the sound produced in it while moving. The drone is designed in two parts first the drone itself and the rest in the controlling mechanism, and it runs on various energy sources such as battery cells, fuel cells, solar cells, and airplane cells(kerosene). 

Military predator drones equipped with multiple sensors and rockets are run by airplane cells. Smaller multirotor drones primarily use battery cells. Since these drones are frequently used for recreation purposes, it is more practical for the drone to run on a rechargeable battery cell. Whereas solar cells are mostly used for small multirotor systems. Because of lack of conversion and low-efficiency solar cells are rarely used in drones. 

Drone Rules 2021

Subject to rules of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation ((DGCA)), drones are allowed in India. 

In 2021 Unmanned Aircraft System Rules 2021 were replaced by The Drone Rules 2021 (https://static.pib.gov.in/WriteReadData/specificdocs/documents/2022/jan/doc202 212810701.pdf ) & (https://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2022/233331.pdf ) released by The Ministry of Civil Aviation. These rules are applicable on all the operators using drones in India for the purpose of importing, exporting, manufacturing and other purposes. 

Certification of Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle

No person shall operate an unmanned aircraft system in India unless such unmanned aircraft system conforms to a type certificate or is exempted from the requirement of a type certificate under these rules (https://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2022/232917.pdf ). 

https://qcin.org/public/uploads/ck-docs/1630314636.Drone%20Rules%2025Aug2021%20(1).pdf

MINISTRY OF CIVIL AVIATION NOTIFICATION New Delhi, the 25th August, 2021 The Drone Rules, 2021, Part III, CERTIFICATION OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM 

An operator may apply for the grating certificate before the Central government.

The central government, on the recommendation of the Quality Council of India specify the standards for obtaining a type certificate for UAVS. The certification standards for the drone are that it must promote –

i. made-in-India technologies, designs, components and unmanned aircraft systems; and

ii. Indian regional navigation satellite system, namely, Navigation with Indian Constellation. 

Application and procedure for issuance of type of certificate

In order to obtain a type certificate, the applicant shall submit the form D-1 on the digital sky platform (https://digitalsky.dgca.gov.in/home ) along with the fees specified in rule 46 and the following:

i. Particulars of the applicant;

ii. Details and required documents in respect of the prototype unmanned aircraft system as specified therein; and

iii. The prototype unmanned aircraft system shall be physically handed over to the authorised testing entity specified therein. 

After that, if the proposal is approved by the Quality Council of India or an authorised testing entity, a report along with its recommendation shall be submitted to Director General within 60 days of the date of receipt of the application. Based on the test reports along with the recommendation, the Director General shall issue a type certificate to the applicant within 15 days for that Unmanned Aviation Vehicle.

Mandatory safety features

By notification in the official gazette, the Central Government may specify safety features to be installed by the operator on their UAVs, which may include among others, the following safety features, namely-

(a) ‘No Permission – No Takeoff’ hardware and firmware;

(b) Real-time tracking beacon that communicates the unmanned aircraft system’s location, altitude, speed and unique identification number; and

(c) Geo-fencing capability.

Exemption from obtaining type certificate

(a) For manufacturing or importing a UAVs no type certificate is required.

(b) a model remotely piloted aircraft system; and

(c) a nano unmanned aircraft system. 

Procedure for registration under Drone Rules

UAVS manufactured or imported in India on or before the 30th day of November 2021 shall, within a period of thirty-one days falling after the said date, make an application to register and obtain a unique identification number for his unmanned aircraft system and provide requisite details in Form D-2 on the digital sky platform along with the fee as specified in rule 46. 

Every operator of an unmanned aircraft system has to register it first on the digital sky portal through which they obtain unique identification number unless exempted under these rules.

All the unmanned aircraft systems to which a unique identification number has been given by registration are to be in the records maintained by the Director General. It shall be the responsibility of the operator to have valid type certificate and has a Goods and Service Tax paid invoice. 

Transfer of unmanned aircraft systems

By filling out the form D-3 one may transfer the UAV to other by the way of sale, lease, gift or any other mode after providing the details of the transferor, transferee and the unique identification number of the UAV. After the verification of the transferor, transferee and the unique identification number of the UAV on the digital sky portal, the transaction number shall be generated, and the Director General shall effect the registration record. 

Deregistration of unmanned aircraft systems

Where the registration of a UAV has been permanently lost or damaged, the operator may file an application under D-3 along with fees specified in rule 46 for deregistration of the unmanned aircraft system. It shall have effect in registration record maintained by the director general and transaction number generated on the digital sky platform.

Category of Zones

The Drone Rule 2021 has classified the Indian airspace map into 3 categories-

(a) Red Zone – the airspace of defined boundaries above India’s land areas or territorial waters, or any installation or authorised port limits specified by the Central Government beyond India’s maritime borders, within which unmanned aircraft can operate only the Central Government shall be authorised to operate aviation systems.

(b) Yellow Zone – the specified airspace above India’s land areas or marine areas within which unmanned aircraft system operations are limited and require approval from the competent air traffic control authority such as AAI, IAF, Navy, HAL etc. The airspace over 400 feet or 120 meters in the authorised green zone, as well as the airspace above 200 feet or 60 meters between 8 and 1 kilometres from the perimeter of an operational airport, shall be classified as the yellow zone.

(c) Green Zone – the airspace of defined boundaries above India’s land masses or marine areas, up to a vertical distance of 400 feet or 120 meters that has not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone in the airspace map for unmanned aircraft system operations, and the airspace up to a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 meters above the area located here between operational airport’s perimeter and an operational airport’s perimeter. 

Interactive maps

Drone pilots must be able to plot their proposed flight plan and quickly identify the zone(s) in which it falls to determine whether or not they need to submit a prior approval application. The airspace map for the drone operations must be programmatically accessible via a machine-readable application programming interface (API) and interactive. (https://digitalsky.dgca.gov.in/airspace-map/#/app

Access to Digital sky platform

The nodal officer of state government, union territories and law enforcement agencies shall have direct access to data available on the digital sky platform (https://digitalsky.dgca.gov.in/home ).

Remote Pilot License

General – No individual other than a holder of a valid remote pilot license enlisted on the digital sky platform shall operate an unmanned aircraft system.

Classification – A remote pilot license shall specifically mention the category, sub-category and classification of the unmanned aircraft system or a combination of these, for which it is issued. 

Eligibility. –An individual shall be eligible to obtain a remote pilot license if he––

(a) Is not less than eighteen years of age and not more than sixty-five years of age;

(b) Has passed class tenth examination or its equivalent from a recognised Board; and

(c) Has successfully completed such training as may be specified by the Director General, from any authorised remote pilot training organisation. 

Procedure for obtaining a remote pilot license

A person willing to obtain a remote pilot license for any category, sub-category or class of an unmanned aircraft system, or a combination thereof shall complete the training specified by the Director General and pass the test conducted by the authorised organisation. Within 7 days an authorised remote pilot training organisation shall fill an application under D-4 along with the fees specified in rule 46 after the completion of training and testing of the individual. Thereafter the individual in respect of whom the authorised remote pilot training organisation an application has been made shall issue a remote pilot certificate through digital sky platform. The Director General shall, within fifteen days from the date of issue of the remote pilot issue the remote pilot license.

Validity of license

A remote pilot license shall remain valid for 10 years unless suspended or cancelled. It must be registered on the digital sky platform and can be renewed by Director General for a maximum period of 10 years on payment of the fee as specified in rule 46.

Remote pilot training organisation

A person seeking remote pilot training must take training from an authorised remote pilot training organisation. The individual must fulfil the eligibility criteria specified by Director General. An individual willing to obtain authorisation for a remote pilot training organisation shall submit an application to Director General in form D-5 along with the fees specified in rule 46. If the applicant satisfies all the criteria and meets all requirements the Director General within 60 days may issue an authorisation to establish a remote pilot training organisation. The validity remains for maximum 10 years unless suspended or cancelled. 

Training requirements

In the rems of training curriculum infrastructure, instructors, proficiency testing and issuing of remote pilot certificates, an authorised remote pilot training organisation must ensure strict conformity with the conditions set by the Director General. 

Research, development and testing

Unmanned aircraft system operations for research, development and testing.

The following persons shall not require a type certificate, unique identification number, prior permission and remote pilot license for operating unmanned aircraft systems for research, development and testing purposes, namely: –– 

i. Any research and development entity under the administrative control of, or recognised by, the Central Government or State Government or Union Territory Administration;

ii. Any educational institution under the administrative control of, or recognised by, the Central Government or State Government or Union Territory Administration;

iii. Any Startup recognised by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade;

iv. Any authorised testing entity; and

v. Any unmanned aircraft system manufacturer having a Goods and Service Tax Identification Number:9 

Insurance

The provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 and rules made thereunder shall apply mutatis mutandis to the third party insurance of UAVs and compensation for such damages by UAVs. An operator may use insurance products approved by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India.

Unmanned aircraft system promotion

The central government may encourage the use and adoption of drones by establishing Unmanned Aircraft Systems Promotion Council, which shall facilitate– 

i. Development of a business-friendly regulatory regime, including automated permissions;

ii. Establishment of incubators and other facilities for the development of unmanned aircraft system technologies;

iii. Involvement of industry experts and academic institutions in policy advice; and

iv. Organising competitive events involving unmanned aircraft systems and counterunmanned aircraft system technologies

Penalties

Where, after giving an opportunity of being heard, the Director General or an officer authorised by the Central Government or a State Government or Union Territory Administration, is satisfied that a person has contravened or failed to comply with the provisions of these rules, he may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, levy a penalty not exceeding rupees one lakh in accordance with the provisions of section 10A of the Act.

Conclusion

The Drone Rules are a positive regulatory development for India’s drone industry. The Drone ecosystem will provide cost-effective options in the domains of medicine distribution, agriculture, and emergency response in India, which has major metropolitan clusters, ultrahigh population density, and a large chunk of the country lacks basic infrastructure. Also, R&D industries and manufacturers are also expected to invest in drone technology which will ultimately provide a good impact on the rate of employment in India. The government of India is working on different factors to empower the drone technology in India by flagging off Drone Mela where companies exhibit their prototypes drone, demonstrating new projects, drone spardha, etc. The government is working as an enabler by creating demand structure for Drones.10 Online food delivery platform Swiggy has also tied up with drone technology companies for drone trials for food and groceries delivery in Delhi-NCR region and Bangalore. However, stakeholders and the general public have expressed regulatory concerns over privacy and data-related issues, as the Drone Rules do not resolve these concerns. As a result, it will be interesting to see how drone regulation changes in the future to handle the expanding privacy issues. 

https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=9b828709-5409-4925-9611-24fdd079b305

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