Government issues draft rules for manufacture, use of drones

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NEW DELHI: India has finally issued the draft set of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2020, that cover the entire spectrum of drones — right from manufacture to usage. The aviation ministry has invited public comments on the draft rules within 30 days after which the final rules will be issued. Keeping safety and security concerns in mind, the rules once finalised will progressively pave the way for using drones for e-commerce. The draft also speaks about setting up drone ports.

Currently drones are used for surveillance, photography and were recently allowed to curb the locust menace. “So far there were no rules for UAS and they were covered by a section of the Aircraft Act. Now the entire spectrum of drones has been covered with the proposed new rules which we hope to finalise very soon after considering public comments,” said a senior official.

While using drones to drop e-commerce items may be a while away, officials say the immediate use for drones in India is likely to be in the health sector in remote areas. “The priority will be to allow use of drones for, say, delivering medical supplies and blood in remote areas. In coming times as things evolve others things like e-commerce deliveries and even air taxis when they are a reality can and will be allowed,” said an official.

Uber Elevate, the US ride-sharing major’s aerial taxi arm, had in 2018 held meetings with the aviation ministry to consider India as one of the five countries where it wants to launch services using small size vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft to and from “vertiports”.

The draft rules have three categories of UAS: Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS); Model Remotely Piloted Aircraft System and Autonomous Unmanned Aircraft System. Unmanned Aircraft are further classified on the basis of maximum all-up-weight (including payload) as: nano (upto 250 gram); micro (250 gram to 2 kg); small: (2-25 kg); medium (25-150 kg) and large (over 150 kg).

The draft rules stipulate who all can manufacture, import and operate drones and where all can the same be flown under what conditions. “Drone ports and drone corridors may be established in permitted areas, if warranted by the nature and requirements of UAS operation,” it says.