Drone Use – Safety & Legal Requirements

Posted by: A. Y. Sundkar

Designation: Director, National Safety Council

Date: March 6, 2023

Issued in: Industrial Safety Chronicle VOL. No. LIII | No.2

Droners are also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Unmanned Aircraft System (UASs). It can be remotely controlled through software, working in conjunction with on board sensor and Global Positioning System (GPS). With advancement in technology, drones are used for different purpose and application such as delivery, national highway mapping, smart agriculture work, agriculture land survey, forest monitoring, surveillance emergency response, etc. Also, it has been used for high-risk jobs wherein many types of risks are eliminated including exposer to health and unsafe conditions e.g. inspection of electricity transmission towers, pipelines, structural stability, tall chimneys, boilers, etc.

To regulate the drone related activities in a manner such that they do not pose any risk to safety or security of people and assets; the Govt of India promulgated the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021 w.e.f. 12th March, 2021. However, these Rules are not comprehensive as feedbacks and suggestions were received from academia, industry and of Civil Aviation, Govt. of India has repealed the UAS Rules with new set of rules titled as the Drone Rules, 2021 vide their notification No. G.S.R. 589 (E dated 25th August 2021. These Rules have 55 Rules and five forms. The Drone Rules aim to ease the process of using drones in India for various purposes, including non-commercial use. Further, there Rules are amended inn February 2022 vide notification No. G.S.R. 108 (E) dated 11th February 2022.

Digital sky platform i.e. online platform has been hosted by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for various purposes of management of drones including those of permission, certificates, unique identification number, etc. The Platform is being updated which will regulate the entire gamut of activities pertaining to drone operations. The airspace map for drones has been released on digital sky platform on 24th Sep 2021 which will help the drone pilots to plot their proposed flight plan and easily identify the zone within which it falls so as to assess whether or not they need to make an application for prior approval. Digital Sky Platform is the single window online platform to ensure smooth functionality of the applications. The following are the important provisions of the Drone Rules, 2021.

Drone are classified based on the maximum all-up weight including payload under Rule – 5 as:

  1. Nano – weighing less than or equal to 250 grams;
  2. Micro – weighing more than 250 grams, but less than or equal to 2 kilograms;
  3. Small – weighing more than 2 kilograms, but less than or equal to 25 kilograms;
  4. Medium – weighing more than 25 kilograms, but less than or equal to 150 kilograms; and
  5. Large – weighing more than 150 kilograms.
  • Drones weighing more than 500 kilograms, the provision of the Aircraft Rules, 1937 are applicable (Rule – 2)
  • The drone to confirm to a type certificate or exempted from the Rules before operating it (Rule – 6). DGCA or any entity authorised by DGCA in this behalf, may, on the recommendation of the Quality Council of India or an authorised testing entity, issue a type certificate for any particular type of Drone (Rule – 8).
  • A type of certificate is required for drone before taking it into use (Rule – 6). The procedure for obtaining a type of certificate is provide in the Rule – 9.
  • Certificate is not required for a model remotely and nano drones (Rule 13)
  • Drone to have the mandatory safety features within six months period from the date of notification of the central govt. in addition to others (Rule 12) as follows-
  1. ‘No permission – No Take-off’ hardware and firmware;
  2. Real-time tracking beacon that communicates the unmanned aircraft system’s location, altitude, speed and unique identification number; and
  3. Geo-fencing capability.
  • Drone to be registered on the digital sky platform and obtain a unique identification number before taking it into use in the Application Form D-2 (Rule 14). For existing drone manufactured in India or imported into India on or before the 30th day of November, 2021, registration and obtaining unique Identification number through the digital sky platform on or before the 31st March 2022 (Rule – 16).
  • The Central Government to publish on the digital sky platform, an airspace map for drone operations segregating the entire airspace of India into red zone, yellow zone and green zone with a horizontal resolution equal or finer than 10 meters. (Rule -19). As per these airspace zone, permissions for flying are required.
  • Prior permission is required for operating drones in Red and Yellow Zone and for Green zone no permission is required (Rule -22). However, it is mandatory to verify the digital sky platform for any notification or restriction before drone operation.
  • These zones are defined in Rule 3(I) as:

“Green Zone” means the airspace of defined dimensions above the land areas or territorial waters of India, 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 for unmanned aircraft system operation and the airspace upto a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 meter above the area located between a lateral distance of 8 kilometre and 12 kilometre from the perimeter of an operational airport:

“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 meter in the designated green zone and the airspace above 200 feet or 60 meter 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 Central Government beyond the territorial waters of India, within which unmanned aircraft system operations shall be permitted only by the Central Government.

  • The drone should be operated safely and does not cause any endanger to the safety and security of any person or property (Rule 26).
  • Prohibition for carrying arms, ammunition, explosives, military stores and dangerous goods (Rule 27 & 28).
  • Mandatory to report of an accident within 48 hours to DGCA through digital sky platform (Rule – 30).
  • For operating drones, a valid remote pilot licence is required, and such list would be available on digital sky platform (Rule -31). However, for operating nano and micro (for non-commercial use) drones, licence is not required (Rule -36).
  • Training to be obtained from the authorised remote pilot training organisation for obtaining a remote pilot licence (Rule – 37).
  • Authorisation from DGCA is requited for establishing training organisation (Rule – 39)
  • No requirement of type certificate, unique identification number and remote pilot licence by R&D entities operating drones in own or rented premises, located in a green zone (Rule – 42).

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