Indian Drone Laws 2021

Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2020 (“UAS Rules”):

Nano-drones: Less than or equal to 250 grams (.55 pounds) 

Micro-drones: From 250 grams (.55 pounds) to 2kg (4.4 pounds)

(reclassification norm for Nano Drones into Micro Drones, if the Nano Drone exceeds the stipulated performance parameters based on the maximum speed (i.e., 15 m / s), altitude (i.e., 15 m) and achievable range (i.e. 100 m) (i.e., performance-based classification)

Small-drones: From 2kg (4.4 pounds) to 25kg (55 pounds)

Medium-drones: From 25kg (55 pounds) to 150kg (330 pounds)

Large-drones: Greater than 150kg (33 pounds)

  • Unlike the Existing Guidelines whose applicability was limited only to the India territory, the application of the draft UAS Rules has been extended to all UAS companies registered in India, even when operating outside the Indian border. Furthermore, its terms apply to all persons wishing to engage in the import, manufacture, trade, lease, operation, transfer or maintenance of a UAS in India.

AUTHORISATION FRAMEWORK

  • As against the earlier regime under the Existing Guidelines where only the UAS operators, manufacturers and importers were required to obtain necessary licenses and approvals, going forward the Draft UAS rules require that all persons associated with the drone ecosystem be registered with an authorized UAS importer, authorized UAS manufacturer, authorized UAS trader, authorized UAS owner, or authorized UAS operator (as an “authorized person”) by applying in Digital Sky Site in accordance with the terms and conditions recommended under Schedule I of the Draft UAS Rules.
  • To be eligible to apply for above-said authorizations requires the applicant to be:
  • An individual who is a citizen of India who is an Indian citizen and has attained at least 18 years of age; or
  • A company or a body corporate whose substantial ownership and effective control should vest with Indian nationals and –
  • (a) It is registered and has its principal place of business within India;
    (b) Its chairman and at least two-thirds of its directors are citizens of India;
  • Or;
  • By a firm or an association of persons or body of individuals or a local authority or any legal entity whether incorporated or not (whose substantial ownership and effective control should vest with Indian nationals), Central and State Government or an agency thereof:
  • Each Authorised Person will be required to submit an application as prescribed under Schedule I of the Draft UAS Rules to obtain an authorisation unique number (“AUN”) to be issued by the DGCA via the digital sky platform, which will be valid for a period of 5 years, unless it is suspended, revoked or cancelled, with a further renewal option for another 5 years. However, it is pertinent to note that the Draft UAS Rules do not prescribe any time-line within which the DGCA would grant such authorization to the applicant. Thus, there remains ambiguity with respect to the time which may be required for obtaining such authorisation.

CERTIFICATE OF MANUFACTURE:

  • The Draft UAS Rules proposes a new certification requirement in the form of a ‘Certificate of Manufacture’ which is required to be obtained by an authorised UAS Manufacturer / UAS Importer to certify that the design of the UAS along with its specification meets the requirements as specified under the Draft UAS Rules. Further, the term ‘manufacturer’ has been defined to mean a person who either manufactures or assembles an UAS or any part or component thereof. Therefore, the requirement for obtaining a Certificate of Manufacture will be applicable on any authorized UAS Manufacturer / UAS Importer engaged in manufacturing / importing of a UAS or any of the parts or components of a UAS or assembling a UAS from a different set of parts, either imported to India or locally purchased in India.
  • Additionally, for each Certificate of Manufacture, there will also be a requirement to obtain an ‘equipment type approval’ (“ETA”) from the Wireless Planning and Coordination (“WPC”) wing of India’s Department of Telecommunication (“DoT”) for operating drones in de-licensed frequency bands, along with details of emergency recovery system installed.
  • Lastly, a Certificate of Manufacture will also be required for Nano category Drones.

OWNERSHIP, SALE AND PURCHASE OF UAS:

  • The Draft UAS Rules do not permit any UAS to be owned or operated in India unless it has been allotted a UIN. Accordingly, draft UAS rules apply to an authorized UAS importer or authorized UAS manufacturer upon transfer to a UAS trader or authorized UAS owner authorized to obtain one UIN for each UAS (including route of sale). Such a UIN must be affixed to the UAS in an identifiable and visible manner. Also, in contrast to the existing guidelines, the Nano type will require a UIN.
  • Furthermore, any sale, lease or exchange of UAS will only be permitted between persons authorized under the draft UAS rules. If sold, an authorized UAS importer or UAS manufacturer will only be allowed to sell UAS to an authorized UAS trader or authorized UAS owner in India. Therefore, it can be concluded that the UAS operator is not allowed to own a drone.
  • Any Authorised Person seeking to sell/lease his UAS to another Authorised Person would be subject to prior approval from the DGCA.

OPERATION OF UAS:

  • An Authorized UAS Operators will only be allowed to operate the UAS, except for the Nano type UAS, after obtaining the UAS Operator Permit (“UAOP”) via DGCA via the Digital Sky Operating System. Terms and Conditions for Obtaining a UAOP, among other things, to the owner of the land or property or to the local council for departure and landing of the UAS. After each flight, the operator must also provide a record of the flight.
  • No UAOP shall be required for operating Nano category Drones.

PENALTIES:

  • Offences punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or with fine not exceeding one lakh rupees, or with both; and
  • Offences punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or with fine not exceeding fifty thousand rupees, or with both.
  • Further, considering the accident-prone nature of Drone operations, the Draft UAS Rules also state that it shall be a valid defence to any proceedings under the Draft UAS Rules if the contravention is proved to have been due to accident, stress of weather or other unavoidable UAS cause or that it took place without the actual fault or privity of the owner, hirer, operator, remote pilot of the.

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