It’s been a historic week for the Director General of Civil Aviation, Government of India. First, the Indian Government has published new Unmanned Aircraft System Rules on March 12, 2021. They came into force on the date of their publication in the Official Gazette. Then on March 17, the government quietly launched the v1.0 of Digital Sky Platform that will enable and regulate drones operations, or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) as they are known in India. ANRA Technologies is honored to have been the domain expert for the Digital Sky project to help bring it to life and we look forward to continued work on future iterations.
About the New Rules
A permit will be needed to use a drone other than those in the nano category, weighing 250 gm or less. Drones weighing more than 250 grams can only be flown by a remote pilot with permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for every flight.
The new rules set a regulatory framework aimed at encouraging the use of drones for various commercial and security purposes, and outlines the do’s and don’ts for users.
Everyone seeking to own or possess, or seeking to engage in manufacturing, trading, leasing, operating, transferring, importing, or maintaining a UAS in India are required to comply with its provisions.
The existing guidelines were limited only to RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) but the UAS rules has following classifications: –
- RPAS – remotely piloted aircraft system (piloted from a remote pilot station)
- Model remotely piloted aircraft system (operated without payload and used for educational purpose only)
- Autonomous unmanned aircraft system (do not require pilot intervention in the management of the flight)
The categorisation of UAS is like that of existing guidelines with only one exception, that is, if the nano drone exceeds the stipulated performance parameter based on the maximum speed, height and range attainable then there can be an introduction of reclassification norm of Nano drones into micro drones. The exception might have an impact on the current micro drone system and may impose challenges on the manufacturers of drones. The existing guidelines which used certain conditions for drones have for now been exempted for the drones to follow. In order to restrict Nano drones to exceed the said speed and height limits, the manufacturers have to inbuilt geofence capabilities to restrict their operations.
The existing guidelines required only the UAS operators, manufacturers, and importers to seek permission, licences and approvals but the new rules require every person who is associated with the drone ecosystem to register themselves in the capacity of authorised UAS importer, authorised UAS manufacturer, authorised UAS trader, authorised UAS owner, and authorised UAS operator. Once an individual or a group becomes eligible as an authorised person, they are required to apply for an Unique Authorisation Number (UAN), which has a validity of 10 years unless it is suspended, revoked, or cancelled and can be renewed for a period not exceeding 10 years. There is no such timeline laid down in the UAS rules within which DGCA would provide authorisation to the applicants and thus, there remains an ambiguity with respect to the time required to obtain an authorisation. There are few things that remain the same irrespective of the new rules. For example, the restriction on the eligibility of foreign entities for their Indian subsidiaries prohibits registering as an authorised person.
Import of UAS
The procedure laid down under the new rules regarding import is a multistep process where the importer of UAS is required to comply with certain rules to obtain a certificate of manufacture from DGCA. DGCA may recommend import permit clearance to the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).
Certificate of manufacture
New certification requirements have been introduced in the form of a certificate of manufacture.. The requirement to obtain the certificate of the manufacturer will be applicable only to the authorised UAS manufacturers or importers who are engaged in manufacturing or importing of UAS or elements of it. The UAS rules here are different from that of the existing guidelines where the manufacturer standards were only limited to the manufacturers and importers of assembled drones.
Maintenance of UAS
A maintenance manual must be submitted to DGCA by every UAS manufacturers and importers to ensure that all requirements and procedures are being met on a compulsory basis. The manufacturers and importers of UAS may also be given permission to establish authorised maintenance centres as and when the same has been published by DGCA.
Ownership sale and purchase of UAS
A mandatory UIN must be associated with the UAS to get permission to be owned and operated in India. The new rule also provides that it is important for the authorised UAS manufacturers or authorised UAS importers to obtain the UIN and for each UAS before transferring it to the UAS trader or owner. The UIN must be affixed on the UAS in a visible manner. Unlike existing guidelines, the UIN will also be required for Nano category drones. Any sale, transfer, or lease of UAS will have to be done by an authorised person as prescribed under UAS rules.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM)
The Central government or any organisation specifically authorised by the Central Government may establish an UTM in Indian airspace or any part thereof, if warranted by the nature and requirements of unmanned aircraft system operation. The UTM service provider shall submit a UTM system service manual, safety management system manual, training manual for management personnel, infrastructure document, and agreement of operations between UTM operator and air traffic service provider in close vicinity and agreed Standard Operating Procedure between them, along with the application.
About Digital Sky
Digital Sky has been a project in development for a few years and now can be accessed through an online web portal as the first step for RPAS operators to ensure compliant operations. It helps users navigate exemptions and guidelines, manufacturers to apply for a Certificate of Compliance, and pilots to register and verify approval of their RPAS. The Digital Sky platform is designed to make the experience as seamless as possible, taking the user through all the requirements to get airborne.
ANRA is pleased to have been an integral partner in developing this phase of the Digital Sky platform and congratulates DGCA in their pursuit of safe and compliant RPAS operations for india. .