Scroll Top

DRONE LAWS IN INDIA: A LEGAL ANALYSIS

INTRODUCTION:

Drones usually referred to as Unmanned Aircraft Systems, have been a part of modern science and technology taking over. Drones have been in use by various sectors for varying reasons and it is safe to say that they can be considered evolutionary. Talking about the bloom in the drone sector it is safe to say that the usage of drones has been commercialized on a great scale thus this particular industry needs certain rules and regulations to operate which are necessary for the smooth functioning of the drone industry. However, if we talk about India there existed no formal regulations until recently when the government introduced the Drone Rules, 2021, and further amended them in 2022.

TYPES OF DRONES:

The Indian government as per the Drone Rules of 2021 has created certain categories of drones based on the weight the machine carries:

  • Nano Category: a drone weighing equal to or lesser than 250 Grams.[1]
  • Micro Category: a drone weighing equal to or lesser than 2 Kilograms.[2]
  • Small Category: a drone weighing equal to or lesser than 25 Kilograms.[3]
  • Medium Category: a drone weighing equal to or lesser than 150 Kilograms.[4]
  • Large Category: a drone weighing more than 150 Kilograms.[5]

Now, the drones that fall under the Nano and Micro categories need not be issued a permit if used for non-commercial purposes.[6] There must be a certain amount of restrictions or regulations on the use of drones falling under the micro and the nano category because as mentioned by the government that no registration as such is needed for the drones under the above category, this somewhere is a threat to an individual’s security as these drones can be used for several unwanted and wrong purposes and with no registration or permit owners of the same are not bound by any authority. It is a known fact that a camera can be attached to these drones and the smaller ones which do not need any permit can misuse this loophole, causing a threat to individual privacy as several unauthorized activities may be carried on by the use of them. There must be some sort of check kept on the UAVs falling under the nano and micro category.

SIGNIFICANCE OF DRONES:

The Drone system in India is overlooked by the (DGCA) which is the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. The first rules regarding the drone regulations were first released on 21st August 2021, by introducing these new rules that provide far more freedom to the drone users in India the country aims to become a global hub for drone technology by 2030.[7] There has been a proposed idea by the Government of India to use the drone service as a part of the agricultural sector these drones have been named Kisan drones[8], so far looking at the amount of effort that goes into the entire process of fertilization and agriculture it is an innovative step to use the UAVs in a way that benefits the farmers. The military has been quite active too when it comes to the application of drones in the war arena. During the 1990s the Indian Army acquired drones from Israel and the first time that unmanned aerial vehicles were used by the army was in the 1999 Kargil war.[9] In India a pilot license is made necessary for persons who operate a drone for commercial purposes and fall in the category of small to large, however, the newer amended rules substituted the word license with certificates.[10]

AREAS PERMITTED TO FLY A DRONE:

According to the DGCA certain areas have been set where drones can be flown these areas have been categorized into three categories:

  1. The Green Zone: any drone which falls within the weight category of 500 kg does not need a permit to be operated.[11]
  2. The Yellow Zone: a drone can only fly within the limit of 200 feet above the ground level within 8-12 km of the area of an airport.[12]
  3. The Red Zone: is the ‘no-drone zone’ within which drones can be operated only after permission from the Central Government.[13]

These zones have been specifically created so that it becomes easier for drone users to identify the areas where they can operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The following map which consists of information regarding the various zones is easily available on the digital sky platform.

DRONE RULES AMENDMENT:

In 2022 the ministry of civil aviation made some amendments to the existing drone laws which were as follows:

  • Certificates or licenses will not be required anymore for drones falling under the micro category and when used for non-commercial purposes.[14]
  • Any individual who owns an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle which is made and manufactured within the Indian boundary or has been shipped to India on or before November 2021 should be registered on the Digital Sky Platform and get an identification for his/her drone before March of 2022 as is mentioned in the 46th rule of the amended order.[15]
  • PLI scheme for drones and drone components was notified on September 30, 2021. Under the scheme, a total incentive of Rs.120 crore is spread over three financial years. The PLI rate is 20 percent of the value addition which is one of the highest among other PLI schemes. In addition, the Ministry of Civil Aviation is already in discussion in with the Finance Ministry to increase the budgetary outlay of the incentive-based scheme for drone manufacturing, in the second phase.[16]

The central government’s decision to ban the acquisition of drones from the international market or importing of the same is supported by a particular strategy: foremost, it is believed that the advancement of domestic technology would increase demand for unmanned aerial vehicles related goods and services in indigenous markets and open up employment prospects. Furthermore, to guarantee that drone tech is regulated and to ensure that abuse of the technology does not take place within Indian boundaries which might result in threats to the defense industry and also data leaks.

CONCLUSION:

Drones in India have been a part of the growing revolution and even though the government had earlier shown no interest in the subject but seeing the growing potential of the drone industry drone rules were introduced in 2021. The Drone industry must be capitalized on by the government as this particular sector holds extremely high importance in the coming years not only from an economic perspective but also from the defense point of view therefore, it is a good step taken by the government to make the use of micro and nano drones without certification and regulate the other categories of the drone to ensure proper and systematic control over the industry, however, the use of micro and nano drones must be subject to certain restrictions to avoid any problems further on. 

Author(s) Name: Mayank Chaudhary (Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA)

References:

[1] Vishal Mathur, ‘India’s Drone Rules 2021: Here Is What The New Rules Say About Drone Weight And Sizes’ (News18, 26 August 2021) <https://www.news18.com/news/tech/indias-drone-rules-2021-here-is-what-the-new-rules-say-about-drone-weight-and-sizes-4129511.html> accessed 17 August 2022

[2] Debashis Sarkar, ‘Government Is Making It Easier For You To Fly Drones: All Details About New Rules’ (News 18, 12 February 2022) <https://www.news18.com/news/tech/government-is-making-it-easier-for-you-to-fly-drones-all-details-about-new-rules-4764377.html> accessed 17 August 2022

[3] Ibid                                                                                    

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Kunal Verma & Sai Anukaran, ‘The Drone Rules, 2021: An Unmanned Flight Into Unchartered Territory – Aviation – India’ (Mondaq, 03 September 2021) <https://www.mondaq.com/india/aviation/1108208/the-drone-rules-2021-an-unmanned-flight-into-unchartered-territory> accessed 17 August 2022

[8] ‘Crop Life India jointly with SAMETI, Conducts training program on “Application of Kisan Drone Technology in Agriculture” throughout West Bengal’ (The Print, 21 September 2022) <https://theprint.in/ani-press-releases/croplife-india-jointly-with-sameti-conducts-training-program-on-application-of-kisan-drone-technology-in-agriculture-throughout-west-bengal/1136993/> accessed 22 September 2022

[9] Zoya Hussain, ‘Explained: The Evolution Of India’s Drone Sector’ (India Times, 07 July 2022) <https://www.indiatimes.com/explainers/news/drone-flying-in-india-561007.html> accessed 17 August 2022

[10] Bharat Sharma, ‘India’s New Drone Rules Explained: No Licence Needed to Fly Drones in India’ (India Times, 27 August 2021) <https://www.indiatimes.com/explainers/technology/india-drone-rules-explainer-548087.html> accessed 17 August 2022

[11] Devesh Pandey & Yuthika Bhargava, ‘Drone Rules Aim to Help Start-Ups, SMEs’ (The Hindu, 26 August 2021) <https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ministry-of-civil-aviation-notifies-drone-rules-2021-aim-to-help-start-ups-smes/article36114141.ece> accessed 17 August 2022

[12] Pranav Mukul, ‘Airspace Map of India: How Drone Operators can Check the Flying Zones’ (The Indian Express, 28 September 2021) <https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-drone-airspace-map-india-7536736/> accessed 17 August 2022

[13] ‘NITI Aayog Pushes for Online Dispute Resolution for Speedy Access to Justice’ (PIB, 29 November 2021) <https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1776202#:~:text=NITI%20Aayog%20Pushes%20for%20Online%20Dispute%20Resolution%20for%20Speedy%20Access%20to%20Justice&text=NITI%20Aayog%20today%20released%20the,avoidance%2C%20containment%20and%20resolution%20online> accessed 17 August 2022

[14] PTI, ‘Govt Scraps Requirement of Drone Pilot Licence’ (The Economic Times, 12 February 2022) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/govt-scraps-requirement-of-drone-pilot-licence/articleshow/89512156.cms?from=mdr> accessed 17 August 2022

[15] Bhumika Indulia, ‘Drone (Amendment) Rules 2022’ (SCC Blog, 15 February 2022) <https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/02/15/drone-amendment-rules-2022/> accessed 17 August 2022

[16] Shailaja Bajpai, ‘Government Releases list of 23 Beneficiaries under PLI scheme for Drones’ (The Print, 6 July 2022) <https://theprint.in/economy/government-releases-list-of-23-beneficiaries-under-pli-scheme-for-drones/1028256/> accessed 17 August 2022