India Industrial Revolution 4.0: Of Drones and Government

FICCI recommendations on unmanned aircraft system rules

India Industrial Revolution 4.0:  Of Drones and Government

The world is at the cusp of widespread adoption of the fourth industrial revolution. Drones, as a subset of cyber-physical systems, have the potential to lead the charge of India Industrial Revolution 4.0 platforms, as per “FICCI Recommendations on The Draft Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2020.”

Recognizing the potential of drones, the Government of India has recently published a draft of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules 2020. FICCI welcomes the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) initiative to launch the Draft UAS Rules 2020 for public consultation and also thanks the government for the string of approvals, exemptions, and other steps taken on a fast-track basis within the past few months for widespread adoption of drones despite challenging times.

“Our country needs innovators who can solve societal problems by applying technology and creating next-generation platforms. R&D and Innovation undertaken in collaboration with industry, academic institutions, and government agencies by drone start-ups in India shall make the vision of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ a reality within a short time. These innovators have the potential to flourish and succeed with the notification of the Draft UAS Rules 2020,” Mr. Rajan Luthra, Chair, FICCI Drones Committee, said.

The CAR 1.0, which was notified in 2018, was simply an extension of current aviation regulation. “However, the proposed Draft Rules is a bold regulatory step by MoCA to recognize drones as an industry in itself and not merely an extension of civil aviation in the country,” Mr. Luthra said. “These rules, once approved, would play a big role in facilitating the drone revolution in India,” he added.

FICCI was the first industry body in India to recognize the transformational role of drones and has a dedicated Committee on Drones representing this highly-promising sector. The committee has been advocating for the holistic and responsible use of drones across diverse use-cases in government agencies, agriculture, and enterprises.

Towards a comprehensive review, the FICCI Committee on Drones and the India Industrial Revolution 4.0 had convened a stakeholder consultation meeting to deliberate on the Draft UAS Rules 2020. The event hosted a large number of participants from drone OEMs and industry end-users to provide their insights and recommendations on the draft rules. Based on the inputs received, FICCI submitted a detailed document on policy inputs for the Draft UAS Rules 2020.

Key highlights of the recommendations:

  1. The rules are a step in the right direction since they extensively cover many aspects of the drone sector. These rules, once approved, would play a big role in facilitating the drone revolution as well as India Industrial Revolution 4.0 in India.
  2. The CAR 1.0, which was notified in 2018, was simply an extension of current aviation regulation. However, the proposed draft rules1, is a bold regulatory step by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to recognize drones as an industry in itself and not merely an extension of civil aviation in the country.
  3. The recommendations of the draft Drone Policy 2.0 (which was released in January 2019), such as dropping of article and BVLOS operations are not envisaged in the Draft UAS Rules. It is requested that certain applications be treated differently owing to their non-urban or low-altitude applications and also considering their extreme social value – agricultural spraying and medical delivery are two such applications. Furthermore, in utilities and infrastructure sectors such as oil and gas, railways, etc., BVLOS operations for inspection and monitoring could prove to be extremely beneficial and prevent from any manmade disasters.
  4. Due to the unprecedented scenario created by the COVID-19 pandemic, industry cannot afford the time and cost overrun due to delay in approvals. FICCI recommends setting-up a single window mechanism to enable applicants to obtain clearances/approvals from ministries such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, WPC Department of Telecommunication, etc. Without such a mechanism, the application process could prove to be a cumbersome process. The MoCA and DGCA may also consider setting up an appeal system for applicants through the single-window mechanism.
  5. Many Indian innovators and researchers are not able to develop world-class drone products, as they do not have access to infrastructure for a testing facility. The industry is dependent on a few labs and testing sites overseas. It would be ideal, if:
  6. The MoCA and DGCA could notify a wide range of testing sites under the jurisdiction of the MoCA as well as of the other central or state government departments (which has adequate infrastructure to test drones) in each and every part of the country. The government has already allowed the private sector to use ISRO2 facilities and other relevant assets to improve their capability. On similar lines, the other government agencies could also be notified.
  7. Design Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) for use of government-owned testing sites.

iii. Furthermore, new world-class drones testing infrastructure could be developed in PPP mode. Since, India has world-class airports, creating similar world-class infrastructure for drone ports and a testing facility is also possible.

  1. Insurance regulator IRDA has recently set-up a working group to study and make recommendations on various aspects of insurance cover for drones. FICCI would be happy to work with IRDA and MoCA for the design and development of products that meet the needs of RPAS owners and operators, including third-party liability. A taskforce comprising government and industry representatives could be set-up to ensure that suitable products come into the market at the time of finalization of the draft rules.
  2. Students and hobbyists mostly use nano category UAS. They may not be able to afford the costly nano drones, as adding more equipment to the nano category drone will increase its cost manifold. It is recommended that nano drones for educational, recreational, and experimental purposes could be considered as Model RPAS in “Designated Areas.”
  3. The DGCA may further enhance the Indian drone training eco system by considering the following suggestions:
  4. DGCA may consider setting up an expert committee, supported by FICCI, for charting the way forward steps to set-up more drone training institutes across India.
  5. An MoU with other government bodies such as the training institutes under the Survey of India (SoI), under the Ministry of Science & Technology could be leveraged.

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