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Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has released the updated Drone Rules, 2021 for public consultation, which are built on a premise of trust, self-certification, and non-intrusive monitoring.

The Drone Rules, 2021 will replace the UAS Rules 2021 released on March 12, 2021. The last date for receipt of public comments is August 5, 2021.

The key takeaways from the Draft Drone Rules, 2021 include abolition of approvals.

The number of forms reduced from 25 to 6, fee reduced to nominal levels with no linkage with the size of the drone.

Safety features like 'No permission - no take-off' (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geo-fencing, etc. to be notified in future. A six-month lead time will be provided for compliance.

Digital sky platform shall be developed as a business-friendly single-window online system. There will be minimal human interface on the digital sky platform and most permissions will be self-generated. Interactive airspace map with green, yellow, and red zones will be displayed on the digital sky platform, as per the draft rules.

The Yellow zone reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter. No flight permission required up to 400 feet in green zones and upto 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.

No pilot licence required for micro drones (for non-commercial use), nano drones and for R&D organisations. No restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India. import of drones and drone components to be regulated by DGFT.

The rules entail no security clearance required before any registration or licence issuance, no requirement of certificate of airworthiness, unique identification number, prior permission and remote pilot licence for R&D entities.

Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also. All drone training and testing to be carried out by an authorised drone school. DGCA shall prescribe training requirements, oversee drone schools and provide pilot licences online.

Issuance of Certificate of Airworthiness delegated to Quality Council of India and certification entities authorised by it.

Manufacturers may generate their drone's unique identification number on the digital sky platform through the self-certification route. Easier process prescribed for transfer and deregistration of drones.

Standard operating procedures (SOP) and training procedure manuals (TPM) will be prescribed by DGCA on the digital sky platform for self-monitoring by users. No approvals required unless there is a significant departure from the prescribed procedures.

Maximum penalty under Drone Rules, 2021 reduced to Rs 1 lakh. This shall, however, not apply to penalties in respect of violation of other laws. Also, Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries. Drone promotion Council to be set up to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime.

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