Deregulation Of Civilian Drones Industry - Fueling Significant Manufacturing Demand In India

Vidheya & Co


Vidheya & Co
Drones have emerged as a game-changing technology in recent years, transforming industries and impacting every aspect of our lives.
India Transport
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Drones have emerged as a game-changing technology in recent years, transforming industries and impacting every aspect of our lives. In recent years, the use of drones has gained significant traction in various sectors such as agriculture, defense, infrastructure, disaster management, and journalism. Acknowledging the immense potential of drones, the Indian government has taken a proactive approach in significantly monitoring and regulating the drone industry ensuring safety, efficiency and promoting the rising domestic drone industries. .The Drone Rules 2021, notified under the Aircraft Act, 1934, and its subsequent amendments in the year 2022 and 2023 have paved the way for a huge market for manufacturing and usage of drones in solving complex logistical challenges in densely populated areas of India and ensuring its use in many other sectors.


The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)issued a public notice in 2014 banning the use of civil drones due to safety and national security concerns. Subsequently, draft guidelines were released in2016, which received criticism for being inefficient and cumbersome. The major criticisms were the requirement of applying for an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) at least 90 days prior to operations and the obligation to inform local authorities before and after each operation, regardless of the drone's weight. Moreover, there were concerns about drones and its impact on the national security, and therefore, the Indian market was in general skeptical of the drone sector.

The Drone Rules 2021

Categorization of Drones

One of the key highlights of the Drone Rules 2021 is the categorization of drones into five different categories based on their maximum take-off weight. This classification allows for tailored regulations and permissions based on the risk posed by each category. This approach promotes a more inclusive and flexible environment for drone operations, encouraging innovation, and accommodating different use cases.

Deregulation Permissions/Approvals

The new rules also introduce a more streamlined and digital process for obtaining necessary approvals and permissions for drone operations. The Digital Sky Platform, an online portal, simplifies the process of obtaining unique identification numbers, remote pilot licenses, and any other permits required for flying drones. This digitization not only reduces bureaucratic hurdles but also enables real-time tracking of drone operations, enhancing safety and security and makes the entire process democratic.

Ownership and Operation of Drones

The Drone Rules 2021 allow Indian citizens, the Central/State Government, Indian companies, and corporations to own and operate drones. However, foreign companies can also own and operate drones in India, provided they meet certain conditions. The rules emphasize the need for the substantial ownership and effective control of the drone by Indian nationals or entities. Drones owned by companies or corporations registered outside India must be leased to individuals or entities allowed to own and operate drones in India. Moreover, the Drone Rules 2021 also promote a "trust-based "approach by doing away with the requirement for prior approval to operate drones in several cases. For low-risk operations, such as flying drones in green zones (areas away from airports and other restricted areas), operators only need to provide a self-declaration on the platform. This move encourages individuals and organizations to explore drone applications and accelerates the adoption of this transformative technology.

The Digital Airspace Map

The Digital Airspace Map was published on September 24th, 2021, which has opened up nearly 90 percent of the Indian airspace as a green zone for drone flying up to 400 feet, effectively incentivizing the MSME's and small players.

PLI Scheme

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has further recognized the need of bringing the domestic drone manufacturers under the Production linked Scheme and notified the same on 30th September,2021. The Government is now giving an incentive of 120 crores to the domestic drone and its components manufacturers on the basis of their value addition in India. The minimum threshold for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and startups is specified as Rs. 2 crore of annual sales revenue for drone manufacturers and Rs. 50 lakhs of annual sales revenue for drone component manufacturers which only highlights the government's intention of assisting and aiding the MSME sector and small start ups as well.

Drone(Amendment) Rules 2022 & 2023

In line with its vision of promoting India as the Global headquarters of Drone manufacturing, the Drone Amendment Rules 2022 & 2023 have brought significant changes in order to make the rules more effective and practical.

The Amendment Rules have made a shift from licensing regime to a mere registration regime with an amendment under the definitions and chapter VI of the Rules, 2021 and, the remote pilot certificate issued by the DGCA authorized Remote Pilot Training Organization will be adequate for the remote pilot to operate drones. Also, the mandatory documents can now by any identity issued by the Government of India including the driving license or a voter Id Card.

Import/Export of Drones and Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT)

Under the Drone Rules 2021, the import of drones is regulated solely by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT). This streamlines the import process and eliminates the need for multiple clearances from different departments. The DGFT plays a crucial role in ensuring the compliance of imported drones with the applicable regulations and standards.

Further, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade has liberalized the policy for export of Drones, meant for civilian end uses from India. The latest being SCOMET (Special Chemicals Organisms Material Equipment and Technology) Policy of Drones/UAV's meant for civilian use has been amended vide DGFT Notification dated 23rd June, 2023,which has further liberalized the export policy of drones. This policy change will be a boost for local manufacturers and exporters as they will not have to mandatorily apply for a SCOMET license before every similar export for civilian purpose.

This would further facilitate the Drone/UAV's manufacturers/Industry to export drones with ease, and therefore would facilitate ease of doing business and promoting exports from India.


In order to fully unleash the potential of drones, it is crucial for India to focus on developing the necessary infrastructure and ecosystem. This includes establishing dedicated testing and training centers, facilitating collaboration between academia and industry, and fostering a vibrant start-up culture around drone technologies. Investments in research and development, skill development ,and capacity building will be instrumental in enabling India to emerge as a global drone hub. One such great initiative by the Government has been launching the 'NAMO Drone Didi' scheme which aims to make women an integral stakeholders of local farming supply chains which would lead to rural prosperity.

To utilize the benefits of this industry, the government has been promoting the adaptation of drones in various fields like Agriculture and health, by incentivising the industry through projects like Sub Mission on Agricultural mechanization, under which financial assistance @ 100 percent is being provided for the purchase of drones. Funds have been released to institutes like ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural research) towards Kisan Drone Promotion, self help groups are further being assisted through Central Sector Scheme under which drones are being provided to 14000 selected Self help groups, these schemes and projects are definitely going to boost the adaptation of drones in various sectors,

In conclusion, the Drone Rules 2021and its subsequent amendments mark a significant milestone in India's journey towards becoming a drone capital. By embracing the potential of drones and fostering an enabling environment, India can seize the opportunities presented by this revolutionary technology. With the right policies, infrastructure, and collaborative efforts, India can establish itself as a global leader in the drone industry and reap the social, economic, and technological benefits that it entails.

Originally published March 31, 2024.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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