Monday, July 19, 2021

A Bold, New Beginning: Why India's New Drone Rules Open Up New Vistas

The drone community in India received a significant booster dose on Thursday, 15 July, when the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) released an updated draft — ‘The Drone Rules, 2021’ — for public consultation.

Once approved and notified (with changes, if any), The Drone Rules, 2021 will replace the existing ‘UAS Rules 2021’ that was released on 12 March 2021. The draft is open for comments from general public, drone aficionados and the industry till 5 August 2021.

India may have missed the bus on helicopters; but the drone lobby surely seems to have got its act together!

The 15-page draft marks a refreshing departure from the labyrinthine rules, regulations and bureaucracy that has come to define MoCA and its constituents. For instance, the UAS Rules 2021 issued vide Gazette notification of 12 March 2021 keeps going for 148 pages.

In an age where practically only birds fly without a portable electronic device (PED), the operations circular on Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) is 64 pages long. Conformity, usability and practicality of civil aviation rules and regulations in India has become an oxymoron of sorts. Most rules are simply cut-copy-pasted from developed countries with no sensitivity to Indian realities. A random search for UAS Rules 2021 on the Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA) website returned a PDF upload in Devanagari script that many drone users may find difficult to comprehend. Against this setting, the latest draft, signed and steered by former Partner in KPMG turned lateral-entry Joint Secretary in MoCA, Amber Dubey, heralds much hope and enthusiasm. It has been received warmly in Indian drone circles as a definitive step in the right direction.

The need for rehashing the UAS Rules 2021 issued just four months ago after lengthy consultations with stakeholders possibly reflects the drone community’s disappointment with existing rules that threatened to drown the drones with a sinker of over-regulation (they did this successfully to helicopters).

19/07/21 KP Sanjeev Kumar/Quint

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