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Separate rules for civil and defence usage of drones soon

Moving forward there will be differentiated regulations for drones with 'civilian, industrial, public use' and 'law and order and defence use', he said. 'On the rules, progress has been made,' Vualnam added.
Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 23:47 IST
Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 23:47 IST

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New Delhi: In order to promote the nascent civilian drone industry the government plans to introduce a differentiated regulatory framework that will have a separate set of guidelines for use of drones for civilian purposes like food and ration delivery and another for defence and law enforcement, Civil Aviation Secretary Vumlunmang Vualnam said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a conference organised by industry body CII, Vualnam said the government will make efforts to promote the use of drones in both the categories.

Moving forward there will be differentiated regulations for drones with “civilian, industrial, public use” and “law and order and defence use”, he said. “On the rules, progress has been made,” Vualnam added.

At present, the use of drones in the country is governed by The Drones Rules, 2021. The rules, which were notified in August 2021, provide the necessary regulatory framework for commercial use of drones.  These rules cover various aspects like type certification, registration and operation of drones, airspace restrictions, research, development and testing of drones, training and licensing, offences and penalties.

Interestingly, in October 2014, the central government had imposed a blanket ban on the use of civil drones. However, the rules were relaxed in the subsequent years and the Drones Rules, 2021, brought clarity. Under the existing rules, India’s airspace has been classified into three zones: red, yellow and green. While the civilian use of drones is permitted in the green zone, restrictions are imposed in the red and the yellow zones.

According to Vualnam, only around 10 per cent of the country’s airspace falls under the restricted category. For drone operation in the red zone permission from the central government is required, while for operation in yellow zone approval is required from the concerned Air Traffic Control (ATC) authority.

In green zones drones weighing up to 500 kg with certain specifications can be operated without seeking permissions.

The civil aviation secretary said the government has put the airspace map for drone operations online in order to bring transparency in the system.

“Identification rules have been liberalised. Documentation for remote pilot license etc, are being simplified. We will see how we can move further processes into an online platform to facilitate ease of activity, ease of doing business,” he added.

According to him, the Ministry of Civil Aviation is exploring ways to collaborate with other government arms to incentivise production of drones as well as drone components.

“We will interact with DPIIT, Ministry of Finance to see how the drone manufacturers and component manufacturers are equally incentivised,” he said.

The central government provides support under the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to promote the domestic manufacturing of drones and drone components. In 2022, a ban was imposed on import of foreign drones. While several companies have now started manufacturing drones locally, the majority of the components are still being imported.

In order to reduce import of drone components, Vualnam said the government has come out with plans to incentivise local manufacturing.

“The government is supporting indigenous development of critical items, R&D, cameras, sensors installed in drones and will sustain the development of the sector,” he said. 

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Published 16 April 2024, 23:47 IST

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