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Drones in India; New Rules declared & PLI scheme approved

The rise in demand for construction drones can be attributed to the rapid development of the construction industry across India, as this leads to an increase in the need for surveying of vast landmass, which contains uneven ground and rocky obstacles. The aerial revolution can be brought about by the proper utilisation of drones which have emerged as a highly viable commercial tool. Drones offer tremendous benefits to almost all sectors of the economy. These include– agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, transportation, geo-spatial mapping, defense. One of the most notable sectors of the economy that is being benefited by drones is construction. Taking another step towards realizing the collective vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, the Central Government has declared new drone rules and approved the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and drone components.

Drone Rules 2021

Drone Rules are framedon the premise of trust and self-certification. The compliance and entry-related procedures have been significantly reduced under the latest rules. The rules are based on the premise of trust and self-certification. Approvals, compliance requirements and entry barriers have been significantly reduced,” Prime Minister Modi tweeted. Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia exclaimed that drone application will be ensured in sectors like transportation, logistics, defense, mining, infrastructure sectors, to name a few. He added the government’s aim through these regulations is to make India a global drone hub by 2030.

The new rules have eased off several that include the abolition of unique authorisation number, unique prototype identification number, certificate of manufacturing and airworthiness, certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permit, authorisation of R&D organisation, student remote pilot licence, remote pilot instructor authorisation, drone port authorisation etc. No security clearance is required before registration or licence issuance for operating drones. Fees for authorisations to operate drones have been reduced to nominal levels, as per these rules.

No permission is required for operating drones in green zones. Green zone means the airspace 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; and the airspace upto a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 metre above the area located between a lateral distance of 8 and 12 kilometre from the perimeter of an operational airport.

Manufacturers and importers may generate their drones’ unique identification number on the digital sky platform through the self-certification route. Drones present in0 India on or before 30 Nov 2021 will be issued a unique identification number through the digital sky platform provided, they have a DAN, a GST-paid invoice and are part of the list of DGCA-approved drones. Following are the drone rules as specified on 25th August 2021

  1. Based on a premise of trust and non-intrusive monitoring.
  2. Several permissions and approvals were abolished. Number of forms reduced from 25 to 5. Types of fee reduced from 72 to 4.
  3. Digital sky platform being developed as a user-friendly online single-window system.
  4. Interactive drone airspace map with green, yellow and red zones shall be displayed by 24 Sep 2021.
  5. No permission required for operating drones in green zones.
  6. Yellow zone, where ATC permission is required, has been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter.
  7. No remote pilot licence required for micro drones (for non-commercial use) and all nano drones.
  8. No security clearance required before issuance of any registration or licence.
  9. Coverage of drones under drone rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also.
  10. No restriction on foreign ownership in Indian drone companies.
  11. No requirement of import clearance from DGCA.
  12. Remote pilot licence to be issued by DGCA within 15 days of pilot receiving the remote pilot certificate from an authorised drone school.
  13. Maximum penalty for violations reduced to INR 1 lakh. Was several lakhs earlier.
  14. Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
  15. Drone promotion council to be set up by government with participation from academia, startups and other stakeholders.
Drone at construction site

PLI Scheme for Drones and Drone Components

The PLI scheme comes as a follow-through of the liberalised Drone Rules, 2021 released by the Central Government on 25 August 2021. The PLI scheme and new drone rules are intended to catalyse supernormal growth in the upcoming drone sector. The new rules and the incentive scheme, the drones and drone components manufacturing industry may see an investment of over INR 5,000 crore over the next three years. Following are some of the top features of the PLI scheme for drones:

  1. The total amount allocated for the PLI scheme for drones and drone components is INR 120 crore spread over three financial years. This amount is nearly double the combined turnover of all domestic drone manufacturers in FY 2020-21.
  2. The incentive for a manufacturer of drones and drone components shall be as high as 20% of the value addition made by her.
  3. The value addition shall be calculated as the annual sales revenue from drones and drone components (net of GST) minus the purchase cost (net of GST) of drone and drone components.
  4. The Government, has agreed to keep the PLI rate constant at 20% for all three years, an exceptional treatment given only to the drone industry. In PLI schemes for other sectors, the PLI rate reduces every year.
  5. The proposed tenure of the PLI scheme is three years starting in FY 2021-22. The PLI scheme will be extended or redrafted after studying its impact in consultation with the industry.
  6. The Government has agreed to fix the minimum value addition norm at 40% of net sales for drones and drone components instead of 50%, another exceptional treatment given to the drone industry. This will allow widening the number of beneficiaries.
  7. The PLI scheme covers a wide variety of drone components:
    • Airframe, propulsion systems(engine and electric), power systems, batteries and associated components, launch and recovery systems;
    • Inertial Measurement Unit, Inertial Navigation System, flight control module, ground control station and associated components;
    • Communications systems (radio frequency, transponders, satellite-based etc.)
    • Cameras, sensors, spraying systems and related payload etc.;
    • ‘Detect and Avoid’ system, emergency recovery system, trackers etc. and other components critical for safety and security.
  8. The list of eligible components may be expanded by the Government from time to time, as drone technology evolves.
  9. The Government has agreed to widen the coverage of the incentive scheme to include developers of drone-related IT products also.
  10. The Government has kept the eligibility norm for MSME and startups in terms of annual sales turnover at a nominal level – INR 2 cr (for drones) and INR 50 lakhs (for drone components). This will allow widening the number of beneficiaries.
  11. Eligibility norm for non-MSME companies in terms of annual sales turnover has been kept at INR 4 crore (for drones) and INR 1 crore (for drone components).
  12. The incentive payable to a manufacturer of drones and drone components shall be simply one-fifth of her value addition.
  13. PLI for a manufacturer shall be capped at 25% of total annual outlay. This will allow widening the number of beneficiaries.
  14. In case a manufacturer fails to meet the threshold for the eligible value addition for a particular financial year, she will be allowed to claim the lost incentive in the subsequent year if she makes up the shortfall in the subsequent year.


The focus at present is on technological advancement that yields better results. The government is showing a positive approach with its declaration of rules and schemes for drones in consecutive months. Let’s wait and watch what the future beholds.



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