July 08, 2021
Drones Round-Up: Industry & Legal Updates
The final Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021 (“UAS Rules”) were notified by the Government of India in March, 2021, which is the new law governing civil use of drones in India. Since these UAS Rules contain significant restrictions and compliance requirements on ownership / operations of unmanned aircraft systems / drones (“UAS”), they have been subject to severe industry criticism. Nevertheless, in the recent few weeks, there have been many policy and legal developments in India which are encouraging for the potential and acceptability of drones, especially from a commercial usage perspective. Most of these developments are proofs of concept, and either driven by private entities, or as a public-private partnership. The industry is likely to benefit from these developments since the Government has permitted such entities to venture into the drone sector and take the first steps towards full-fledged operations. We have summarised some of the key updates below.
1. Beyond Visual Line of Sight & Drone Deliveries: Healthcare
2. Anti-hostile drone measures:
3. Drone Surveys: Infrastructure
4. Drones Commercial Usage: Deliveries & Services
These developments are significant steps forward towards realizing the benefit of drones, and further proof that the UAS Rules, 2021 need to be revisited such that they facilitate the drone industry, while focusing only on the strictly necessary restrictions for the purposes of security. From a practical perspective, the current UAS Rules are under heavy criticism from the drone industry for the blanket restrictions and prohibitive compliance requirements. As the UAS Rules stand, even the implementation of line of sight operations is unclear. Hence, operations such as those mentioned above appear to be far-fetched for many stakeholders. However, as per some news reports,9 it is contemplated that the UAS Rules may be relaxed in the near future. It is hoped that the said relaxations will be in line with industry feedback, otherwise the impediments in the existing UAS Rules are likely to render the industry redundant as a whole.
Further, as per reports, draft guidelines for BVLOS operations may be released by December, 2021 for public consultations and the final guidelines may be released by March, 2022.10 It cannot be emphasized enough that all regulations should be formulated only after meaningful public consultations, and ensuring that the feedback is actually reflected in the final laws.
1 Available at https://www.news18.com/news/india/1st-trials-of-medicine-delivery-through-drones-begin-in-karnataka-3877502.html (Last visited on June 28, 2021).
3 Available at https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/odisha-govt-mulls-use-of-drones-to-deliver-covid-vaccines-to-remote-areas/cid/1819961 (Last visited on June 27, 2021).
4 Available at https://gadgets.ndtv.com/apps/news/swiggy-deliver-food-using-drones-anra-2465798 (Last visited on June 27, 2021).
5 Available at https://www.financialexpress.com/defence/drdos-anti-drone-system-expected-to-be-installed-in-critical-military-installations/2281271/ (Last visited on July 7, 2021).
6 Available at https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jammu-blast-pakistan-drone-attack-iaf-bsf-7378131/ (Last visited on June 27, 2021).
7 Available at https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/nhai-makes-drone-survey-mandatory-for-all-national-highway-projects-121061600936_1.html (Last visited on June 27, 2021).
8 Available at https://theprint.in/ani-press-releases/spicexpress-delhivery-join-hands-for-commercial-drone-delivery/683744/ (Last visited on June 27, 2021).
9 Available at: https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/drone-policy-set-to-be-relaxed-as-iaf-goes-for-counter-rogue-tech-121070700030_1.html (Last visited on July 7, 2021).
10 Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/newsletters/morning-dispatch/drone-delivery-trials-begin-this-week/articleshow/83498983.cms?from=mdr (Last visited on July 7, 2021).