DRONE RULES, 2021
As discussed in the previous module, the Ministry of Civil Aviation published the
UAS Rules, 2021 in March 2021. However, the rules were criticized by various
academicians, end-users and startups for being too restrictive since the provisions
stipulated permission for every drone flight, required considerable paperwork and
the availability of very few free to fly green zones. Taking these criticisms into
account, the Government of India decided to repeal the UAS Rules, 2021 and
instead notified more liberalized provisions for drone regulation by means of
Drone Rules, 2021 in August 2021.
The Drone Rules, 2021 have been notified by the Central Government by
exercising the powers conferred under section 51, section 10 (2)2 and sections
10A3, 10B4 and 12A5 of the Aircraft Act, 1934.
5.2. KEY PROVISIONS OF THE RULES
The Drone Rules, 2021 are applicable to6-
1 Power of Central Government to make rules.
2 Penalty for act in contravention of rule made under this Act.
3 Adjudication of penalties.
4 Cancellation of licence or certificate or approval.
5 Composition of offences.
6 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 2(1).
a. All persons owning or possessing, or engaged in leasing, operating,
transferring or maintaining an UAS in India;
b. All UAS registered in India;
c. All UAS being operated in India.
Furthermore, the applicability of Aircraft Rules, 1937 has been restricted only to
UAS with maximum weight of more than 500 kgs.7
5.2.2. Classification of UAS
The UAS has been categorized into aeroplane, rotorcraft and hybrid UAS.8 They
have been further classified as remotely piloted aircraft system, model remotely
piloted aircraft system and autonomous unmanned aircraft system.9 This
classification and sub-categorization is in same lines as the UAS Rules, 2021.
Furthermore, the classification of UAS based on weight is also in same lines as
UAS Rules, 202110-
a. Nano- less than or equal to 250gms
b. Micro- more than 250 gms but less than or equal to 2 kgs
c. Small- more than 2 kgs, but less than or equal to 25 kgs
d. Medium- more than 25 kgs, but less than or equal to 150 kgs
e. Large- more than 150 kgs
7 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 2(2).
8 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 4(1).
9 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 4(2).
10 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 5.
Under the Rules, no person has a right to operate an UAS without a certificate,
unless he is exempted from the requirement of a certificate.11 With reference to
the standards of certificate, the Rules stipulate that the central government may
specify the standards for obtaining a certificate for UAS. For such specification,
the government is required to take the recommendation of the Quality Council of
India.12 The DGCA has been authorised to issue a type certificate. The fee payable
for issuance of type certificate is INR 100.13
It is pertinent to note that type certificate is only required for operating drones in
India. The same is not required for14-
a. Manufacturing or importing an UAS.
b. Operating a model remotely piloted aircraft system
c. Operating a nano UAS
The Rules provide that the import of UAS shall be regulated by the Directorate
General of Foreign Trade and any other entity authorized by the government for
5.2.4. Mandatory safety measures
The Rules stipulate that the central government can notify certain safety features
to be installed on an UAS. These safety measures might include16-
a. No permission- no takeoff hardware and firmware
b. Real time tracking beacon (same as under UAS Rules, 2021)
11 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 6.
12 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 7.
13 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 46.
14 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 13.
15 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 11.
16 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 12.
c. Geo-fencing capability (same as under UAS Rules, 2021)
5.2.5. Registration of UAS
The Drone Rules, 2021 require all persons operating an UAS to first register the
same on the digital sky platform and obtain a UIN.17 The applicant is required to
fill Form D-2 available on the digital sky platform.
For the purpose of transferring an UAS to another person by means of sale, lease
or gift, the owner of the UAS is required to fill Form D-3 by providing details of
transferor, transferee and the UIN of the UAS.18
An UAS can also be registered if the owner believes that the same is permanently
lost or damaged. For deregistration, he is required to apply in Form D-3 on the
digital sky platform.19
It is pertinent to note that the fee payable for issuance, transfer or deregistration
of UAS is INR 100.20
5.2.6. Operation of UAS
Under the Rules, the central government is required to publish an airspace map
on the digital sky platform segregating the entire airspace of India into red zone,
yellow zone and green zone.
The Rules further stipulate that for operating an UAS in the red or yellow zone,
the person is required to take prior permission. However, such permission is not
17 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 14.
18 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 17.
19 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 18.
20 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 46.
required for operating an UAS in the green zone, subject to mandatory pre-flight
verification of zonal restrictions by the remote pilot.21
“Green zone means the airspace upto a vertical distance of 400 feet or 120 metre
that has not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone in the airspace map;
and the airspace upto a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 metre above the area
located between a lateral distance of 8 and 12 kilometre from the perimeter of an
Yellow zone means the airspace of defined dimensions above the land areas or
territorial waters of India within which unmanned aircraft system operations are
restricted and shall require permission from the concerned air traffic control
authority. The airspace above 400 feet or 120 metre in the designated green zone
and the airspace above 200 feet or 60 metre in the area located between the
lateral distance of 8 kilometre and 12 kilometre from the perimeter of an
operational airport, shall be designated as yellow zone;
Red zone means the airspace of defined dimensions, above the land areas or
territorial waters of India, or any installation or notified port limits specified by
the Central Government beyond the territorial waters of India, within which
unmanned aircraft system operations shall be permitted only by the Central
The Rules further prohibit carriage of any goods which are termed dangerous
under the Aircraft (Carriage of Dangerous Goods) Rules, 2003.23
5.2.7. Remote Pilot License
21 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 22.
22 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 3(1)(l).
23 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 28.
Only a licensed remote pilot, who is enlisted in the digital sky platform, is entitled
to operate an UAS.
As per the Rules, the following conditions needs to be fulfilled to become eligible
to obtain a remote pilot license24-
a. In the age group of 18-65 years,
b. Passed class Xth or its equivalent from a recognized Board, and
c. Successfully completed the training specified by the DGCA from any
authorized remote pilot training organization.
Within 7 days of successful completion of the training, the training organization
has to apply in Form D-4 on the digital sky platform for obtaining a remote pilot
license for the individual. On such application, the individual will be issued a
remote pilot certificate. The DGCA is required to issue remote pilot license to
such individual within 15 days of the issuance of the remote pilot certificate. The
fee payable for issuance or renewal of remote pilot license is INR 100.25
It is pertinent to note that remote pilot license is not required for operating a nano
UAS and operating a micro UAS for non-commercial purposes.26
24 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 33.
25 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 46.
26 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 36.
The Rules provide for penalties not exceeding INR 1 lakh, in accordance with
section 10A of the Aircraft Act, 1934, in case of contravention or failure to
comply with the provisions of the Rules.27
The Rules also provide for cancellation or suspension of any license, certificate,
authorization or approval by the DGCA in case of contravention or failure to
comply with the provisions of the Rules.28
5.3. ANALYSIS OF THE PROVISIONS
The Drone Rules, 2021 has brought forth certain key changes in the way UAS
were regulated in India. Addressing the issue of multiplicity of certificates and
paperwork, the Rules have reduced the number of forms from 25 to 5.
Furthermore, the types of fee have been reduced from 72 to 4. The quantum of
fee too has been substantially reduced.
It is also pertinent to note that the Drone Rules, 2021 has done away with a
number of approvals, like unique prototype identification number, certificate of
manufacturing and airworthiness, certificate of conformance, certificate of
maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permit,
authorisation of R&D organisation, student remote pilot licence, remote pilot
instructor authorisation, drone port authorisation etc.
The coverage of drones has been increased from 300 kgs to 500 kgs. Permission
is not required for operating drones in green zones. The yellow zone has been
reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter. Remote pilot license is
27 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 50.
28 Drone Rules, 2021, Rule 53.
not required for operating micro drones for non-commercial purposes and nano
The Rules provide for easier process for transfer and deregistration of drones
through the digital sky platform. The maximum penalty for violation of the
provisions of the Rules has been reduced to INR 1 lakh.
These provisions highlight that the Drone Rules, 2021 has addressed the issues
attached with the UAs Rules, 2021. It aims to build a drone ecosystem on trust,
simplification and non-intrusive monitoring.