Over the last few years, Drone technology has lured tech market. Drones are a technology platform that has found its credence in multiple industries ranging from photography to agriculture.
India, too is all set for capitalising on this boom after amending formerly designed drone rules in August 2021. Civil Aviation Minister, Jyotiraditya Scindia said the rules are aimed at simplifying the procedures and reducing the compliance burden for drone operation. “…the new Drone Rules will trigger change ripples across sectors like agriculture, healthcare, mining, etc…,” he tweeted.
This validates, drones could change the face of various industries in India, one of which is highly challenging and demanding – the Agriculture Industry. Farming techniques have drastically evolved over the last few decades, the use of Drones (also known as Unmanned Aerial vehicles) in farming (agricultural drones) is one among its various evolutions. Efficient usage of drones in crop protection solutions within the confines of a regulatory framework is the need of the hour, so that agriculture is practised in a sustainable manner, without compromising the needs of the future generations.
The Bearer of Glad Tidings
The government of India recently released liberalised drone rules which will accelerate the growth of Indian entrepreneurs and encourage them to compete on a global stage in terms of drone technology development and usage.
The liberalised drone regulations were released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in August 2021 for Indians to reap benefits of the fascinating technology unlike ever before, making India – “ATMA NIRBHAR BHARAT”. With an ease in Drone regulations, drone manufacturers got a sigh of relief.
Liberalisation in the drone policies
Fees linked to issuance, transfer, or deregistration of the unique identification number has been reduced to just Rs 100, the fee for issuance or renewal of Remote Pilot License has been brought down[(PART 11 sec 3(i) Pt (XII) pt.46 August 25,2021]]. There is a visible deduction in maximum penalty for violations under the Drone Rules, now in 2021[(PART 11 sec 3(i) Pt (XII) pt.50 August 25,2021]].. Further simplification of the policy shows that operating a drone in green zones and maximum up to 400 feet or 120 metre that has not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone in the airspace map for unmanned aircraft system operations. No prior permission shall be required for operating an unmanned aircraft system in a green zone, subject to the provisions [(PART 11 sec 3(i) Pt (V), pt.22(2) August 25,2021]. 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 and drones can only be operated after approval [(PART 11 sec 3(i) Pt (V), pt.22(1) August 25,2021]. In the red zone, drones can only be operated only after approval from the central government [(PART 11 sec 3(i) Pt (V), pt.24]. Several approvals like unique authorization number, unique prototype identification number, certificate of manufacturing and airworthiness, certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permits, authorization of R&D organization, student remote pilot license, remote pilot instructor authorization, drone port authorization, etc. have been abolished under the new rule from DGCA. Research and Development. The authorized research and development organization shall conduct research and development unless obtaining the unique prototype identification number from the Director-General. There is no requirement for Type Certificate, unique identification number, and remote pilot license for R&D entities to operate in green zones [pt II sec 3(i), pt (VIII), pt 26- July 2021] . The number of forms for the certificate, registration, license, etc., has been reduced from 25 to 5[MoCA, pt4- August 2021]. The coverage of drones has been enhanced from 300 to 500 kgs [MoCA, pt.17- August 2021].
Remote Pilot Licence
A holder of a valid remote pilot licence enlisted on the digital sky platform shall operate an unmanned aircraft system [(PART 11 sec 3(i), pt. VI. Pt. 31- August 25,2021]. Only DGCA certified pilots, who have successfully completed such training as may be specified by the Director General, from any authorised remote pilot training organisation shall be permitted to fly the drones [(PART 11 sec 3(i), pt. VI. Pt. 34(1) August 25,2021]. Candidates must join one such training institute and clear the theoretical and practical tests [(PART 11 sec 3(i), pt.VI, pt34) August 25,2021] with the prerequisite of 18 years of age and must have cleared the 10th class [(PART 11 sec 3(i), pt.VI, pt33) August 25,2021] with basic English know how to understand the instructions. One needs to undergo a practical flying session from simple take-off, landing procedures to complex manoeuvres. After the training, the person shall be issued with a remote pilot certificate within seven days. Then the applicant is issued with a remote pilot license by the Director-General [(PART 11 sec 3(i), pt.VI. Pt. 34(4) August 25,2021]]from the given date of the remote pilot certificate, valid for next 10 years through the digital sky platform [PART II—SEC. 3(i), pt.VI, pt35(c) August 25,2021]]. Thus, easing the process of deploying a drone.
To practise agriculture in a sustainable manner, efficient usage of drones in crop protection within the confines of a regulatory framework is the need of the hour. This technology innovation could be the means of livelihood at many levels, be it the farmer, or maintenance or the pilot flying a drone, it needs manpower, thus contributing towards a better life of unemployed skilled laborers in rural areas.
General Aeronautics Agri-Drones brings indispensable synergy to the ecosystem – Sustaining farming practices for the future.
It’s Digital Now!
While the drone industry is still relevantly nascent, the regulation of such liberalised rules will significantly reduce the growth hurdles, the development of Digital Sky Platform is one such step. Requirements for manufacturers and other stakeholders have been eased for getting prototypes.
It would encourage start-ups and small and medium enterprises to create and expedite innovative-use cases of drones. Drone Industry could be one such idea where, the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme can be well implemented.
Production linked incentive (PLI Scheme) in drone manufacturing
To urge start-ups and MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) to invest in drone technology, the government of India has kept the eligibility norm of annual sales turnover at a low level, which could prompt companies to take risks in the drone ecosystem – boosting its drone industry.
Similarly, for non-MSME companies, the annual sales turnover cap has been set in accordance to them. To expand the scope of these benefits, the Production Linked Incentives (PLI) has been put into motion in India. PLI for a manufacturer shall be capped at 25% of total annual outlay [pt 13- MoCA, PLI- September 2021]. This will allow widening the number of beneficiaries. The incentive for a manufacturer of drones and drone components shall be as high as 20% of the value addition made by them [pt 12- MoCA, PLI- September 2021].
The government has a total of 120 crores for the PLI scheme and agreed to keep the PLI rate at 20 percent for the next three years an exceptional treatment given only to the drone industry [pt 15- MoCA,
PLI- September 2021]. In PLI schemes for other sectors, the PLI rate reduces every year. If a manufacturer makes up the shortfall for the eligible value addition for a particular financial year, they can claim the lost incentive in the subsequent year [pt 14- MoCA, PLI- September 2021].
With this incentive, there will be a visible growth in development of these cutting-edge products making India a drone technology hub in the coming years. Government of India estimate claims that such concrete measures could drive drone and drone manufacturing industries to witness huge investments and it will open up new possibilities for innovation and business.
With these relaxed norms, the production and application of drones will definitely touch new heights. The new rules are the major breakthrough for Indian drone Industry. India is bound to become the drone hub with its world class solutions
Disclaimer: The above written article is based on the sub sets of rules published by Government of India. The content of this article is intended to provide a general summary to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.