New Drone Rules, 2021

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has notified the Drone Rules, 2021 which supersede the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021 passed in March 2021. The previous Rules were criticized by academia, startups and various stakeholders as being restrictive and translucent in nature as it involved a large amount of paperwork, required permissions for every take off for each drone and very limited ‘free to fly’ green zones. It seems that the government has taken such feedback into consideration and have come up with a more broad and liberal set of regulations for the operation of drones in the country.

Many compliance requirements as regards obtaining licenses and registrations have been significantly condensed in the 2021 Rules. The Rules entail a variety of new features, for instance, the coverage of drones have been increased from 300 kg to 500 kg (which will bring within its purview drone taxis as well); there is no longer a requirement for a remote pilot license for micro and nano drones for non-commercial use; there is no restriction on foreign ownership in Indian drone companies, etc.

The Rules will immensely widen the scope for startups by opening up new prospects for innovation and business. It will be interesting to see how the rules help in benefitting various sectors including agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, geospatial mapping, etc. (all of which have a high potential for drone deployment).

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