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Indian government amends Drone Rules, does away with ‘Remote Pilot Licenses’

The deadline for registering drones has also been deferred as the government looks to prop up the domestic industry.

A few days after the Indian government prohibited the import of drones into the country, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has now made it easier for people to legally fly small drones for non-commercial purposes, by proposing an amendment to the Drone Rules, 2021 on February 11.

Under the new amendments, those who are flying drones that weigh beyond 2kg for commercial purposes will no longer need a remote pilot license to fly. In place of a license, drone users will now require a remote pilot certificate which can be obtained from one of the 12 DGCA-recognised drone schools using the Digital Sky platform. In the earlier version of the rules, the license could only be issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Additionally, a remote pilot certificate will no longer be required for flying small to medium size drones of up to 2kg for non-commercial purposes, according to the amendment.

This is the latest attempt by the Indian government to promote the drone industry in India.

Govt moves to switch from DAN to UIN for drones

As per the Drone (Amendment) Rules, 2022, the deadline for voluntary registration of unmanned aircraft has been extended to March 31, 2022. The registration has to be done through the Digital Sky platform.

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Previously, drones that were registered prior to November 2021 were issued a Unique Drone Number (DAN), while drones registered post that date were issued a unique identification number (UIN) number.

According to Prem Kumar Vislawath, co-founder of Marut Drones, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had brought in the DAN number regime to identify the number of drones in India. “It is a simple declaration,” Vislawath said. However, as per the Drone Rules 2021, drone operators need Unique Identification Numbers for flying drones legally. “So, the Ministry said that ones who already have DAN number can transform it to UIN on the Digital Sky platform” he added.

Import of drones banned to boost indigenous production

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has prohibited the import of foreign drones with immediate effect, according to a notification by the DGFT on February 9. Exemptions from the ban have been provided for drones used for research and development, defence and security purposes. However, the import of drone components will remain free, the notification added.

With the liberalised Drone Rules, 2021 (notified on 25th Aug 21), drone airspace map (24th Sep 21), drone PLI scheme (30th Sep 21), UTM policy framework (24th Oct 21), drone certification scheme (26th Jan 22) and single window DigitalSky Platform (26th Jan 22) in place, this is a good time to invest in the Indian drone industry.” — Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Civil Aviation Amber Dubey

Drone projects announced as part of the latest budget

A week ago, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the government will promote drones-as-a-service through a new initiative, during her speech on the Union Budget 2022-23. It will also promote the use of “Kisan Drones” for crop assessment, digitisation of land records, and spraying of insecticides and nutrients, Sitharaman said.

“The promotion of usage of ‘Kisan Drones’ for crop assessments and protection, land records, spraying of insecticides, are expected to drive a wave of technology in the agriculture and farming sector. It will help the farmers to inspect each area across the field effectively, stay updated with the health of crops, find areas that need immediate attention and promote chemical-free natural farming which will in turn help exports in the coming time and builds the health of the nation.” – Dr Malini Saba, Founder & Chairman, Saba Group

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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