The Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation has issued an updated set of drone regulations and laws for those operating drones that are unmanned in India. What do pilots have to know about 2021 India drone regulations?

  • What kinds of permits or certificates are drone pilots required to obtain? 
  • Are there age limits for drone pilots? 
  • What are the areas in which you cannot fly drones in India? 
  • Is drone delivery legal within the country? 
  • What penalties for violating the law? 

The drone pilot needs to know that if any damage occurs to any person or property because of their drone, the drone operator is held liable and accountable for the loss or discomfort.

Drone Operator Permits for Different UAS Categories

  • Nano drones– Drones that weigh less than 250gm are nano drones, and no permit or license is required to fly nano drones.
  • Microdrones– If you want to operate a drone with a weight of greater than 250 grams or smaller than 2kgs regardless of whether it is for recreational or commercial purposes, you require a UAS Operator Permit I (UAOP-I). The permit stipulates that the pilot adhered to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) guidelines created by an authorized UAS operator and approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The drone’s operations are limited to the visible line of sight. The drone is not allowed to carry dangerous items. In reality, drone delivery of any kind shouldn’t be attempted using UAOP-I.
  • Small drone– Drone with a weight of more than 2kgs and less than 25 kgs falls under the category of small drones. For a small drone, one should require a UAS operator permit I (UAOP-I).
  • Medium Drones If you are conducting any operation that requires a drone with a weight of over 25 kg and below 150 kgs are medium drones, it is required to obtain the UAS Operator Permit II (UAOP-II). Also, all operations must be conducted according to the Operations.
  • Large drones Drones above 150kgs of weight stand for large drones, and UAOP-II is required to fly large drones.

The Government of India can exempt any Ministry, Department, or a government-associated agency – at both the central and state level – from the license requirement of a drone operator permit if it is national interest or helps maintain or defend the country’s security.

Drone Flying Restrictions in India

  • There is no way for a micro drone should fly higher than 60 meters above the ground or the max speed limit of 25 meters per second (m/s).
  • A drone that is small in size must not be allowed to fly. The small drone should fly over 120 meters above the ground or at a maximum 25 miles per hour.
  • Large or Medium Drones must be operated by requirements set out by the Operator Permit issued by the DGCA.
  • Prohibited zones Prohibit zones are entirely off-limits in restricted areas. For these restricted zones an approval from the DGCA is required.

No-Fly Zones in India for Drone Operations

The red zone is the ‘restricted zone’ within which no drones can be operated in these zones or drones can be operated only after permission from the Central government.

In India, No drones zones are:

  • A 5 km distance from the border of international airports located at Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad.
  • Within 3 kilometers from the border of any private, civil, or defense airports.
  • Just 25 km away from the international border, which comprises Line of Control (LoC), Line of Actual Control (LAC) as well as Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL)
  • Within 3 kms from the area covered by military installations/facilities without clearance.
  • Within 5 km of Vijay Chowk in Delhi.
  • Within 2 km of the boundary of strategic sites/vital installations that have been notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs, if clearance is not obtained.
  • Within a distance of 3 km within a 3 km radius State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals.
  • Beyond 500 meters (horizontal) to the sea from the coastline, if the ground station’s site is located on an anchored platform situated on the land.
  • From a vehicle, ship, or any floating platforms made from in eco-sensitive zones surrounding the National Parks or Wildlife Sanctuaries without prior approval of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Within temporary or permanent Prohibited, Restricted or Danger zones.

Obtaining a Drone Pilot License in India

Students Remote Pilot License– These are granted for a nominal fee by an authorized training agency. The student license is in effect for a maximum time of 5 years. It may be renewed for a second duration of 2 years.

Remote Pilot License These licenses are given for a cost by the DGCA accompanied by a training certification and a test report from an approved training institution. Small pilot licenses are valid for 10 years and can be renewed for 10 years upon renewal application.

Minimum requirements

  • You should have completed Class X or an equivalent examination from any approved Board. 
  • You must pass a medical exam by the DGCA. 
  • You must also be able to pass a background investigation performed by a responsible government agency to confirm the authenticity of your background and character.

Age requirements

  • The minimum age to apply for remote pilot licenses and student licenses is 18 years old
  • The maximum period you can use the privileges of small pilot licenses for commercial use is 65 years old.

Radio Operators Certificate

Valid Radio operator’s certification of proficiency, as well as authorization for Aeromobile service, is required under three conditions:

  • If you’re interested in assistance with Medium or Large-sized category drones.
  • If you need training to learn about flying Small and Micro category drones within controlled air space or
  • If you are passing through airports and in the vicinity.

Penalties for Illegal Drone Flying in India

Except for Nano drones of the Nano category, Anyone who operates drones without an appropriate license or permit will be required to pay a penalty of INR 25,000.

Flying over zones of no operation could result in a fine in the amount of up to INR 50,000.

Drones flying without an insurance policy from a valid third party is subject to an additional fine of 10.000 INR.

Drone Pilots and Data Security

The drone operator is responsible for protecting any information gathered during a drone flight. Your responsibility is to follow the appropriate methods and have equipment installed to store or destroy such information safely. Furthermore, you should ensure that the data collected during the operation is not divulged to any third parties without the individual’s permission to whom the data relates.

Drone Swarm and Indoor Operations

Drone Swarms and indoor operations are permitted only with Nano as well as Micro-category drones. Swarm operations can be conducted only in approved areas and in compliance with the regulations approved by the DGCA. The flying of drones in enclosed spaces is not recommended using Small, Medium, Large, or Small category drones.