The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has replaced the UAS Rules, 2021 with the Drone Rules, 2021(Drone Rules). The UAS Rules were perceived as being restrictive in nature due to grueling paperwork, along with seeking permission for every drone flight and with very few “free to fly “green zones being available. The Drone Rules supersede the UAS Rules to make way for more liberalised rules.
1. Applicability of Drone Rules:
The Drone Rules aim to regulate all persons that are owning or possessing or engaged in exporting, importing, manufacturing, trading, leasing, operating, transferring or maintaining a drone in India. However, it does not apply to drones used by the naval, military or air forces of the Union
To be allowed to operate a drone in India, a certificate of “airworthiness” is required which can be applied from the Digital Sky Platform. This Platform is created to simplify paperwork, by creating a single window online system, thereby ensuring efficiency.
The Rules introduce the concept of a Unique Identification Number (UIN) that will be provided to each drone mentioned in the certificate of airworthiness. No person will be permitted to operate a drone which does not have a UIN assigned unless exempt.
The Quality Council of India or a certification entity authorized by the Quality Council of India or the Central Government may issue a certificate of airworthiness for any particular type of drone, on an application filed by a manufacturer or importer of that type of drone on the digital sky platform, if such type of drone meets the specified certification standard. 
However, the following drones are exempted from the requirement for a certificate of airworthiness when any manufacturing, importing or operating a
(a) prototype drone for the purpose of research and development;
(b) prototype drone for obtaining certificate of airworthiness; and
(c) nano drone.
2. Safety Features
The Rules state that the Central Government will specify mandatory safety features to be installed on a drone by persons owning it. Such safety features may include features like geo-fencing capability, real time tracking beacon that relays a drone’s location, altitude, speed and UIN. Once specified, these features should be adopted within 6 months from the date of publication of such notification.
The Rules require third party insurance of drones for compensation in case of damage to life and/or property caused by a drone. Insurance cover has to be taken in accordance with Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and rules made thereunder, which shall apply mutatis mutandis.
Import of drones and drone components shall be regulated by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade. The Rules also allow acceptance of approvals given by foreign regulators and may issue type certification to that type of drones. The Drone Rules, 2021 attempts to encourage foreign players by permitting approvals by foreign regulators .
4. Classification of Drones:
Based upon the maximum all- up weight inclusive of payload, the Rules have classified drones in the following categories:
(a)Nano drone: Less than or equal to 250 grams;
(b) Micro drone: Greater than 250 gram and less than or equal to 2 kilograms;
(c) Small drone: Greater than 2 kilogram and less than or equal to 25 kilograms;
(d) Medium drone: Greater than 25 kilogram and less than or equal to 150 kilograms; and
(e) Large drone: Greater than 150 kilograms
However, in case of a drone with maximum all-up-weight more than 500 kilogram, the provisions of the Aircraft Rules, 1937 shall apply.
5. Fly Zones
The Rules empower the Central Government to mark the entire airspace of India into 3 zones- Red, Yellow and Green. The Central Government can update the airspace map on the Platform for drone operations from time to time to change the status of an area from one zone to another. However, such change shall not come into effect before seven days after the date of such update.
The three zones have been defined as follows:
Green Zone (Permissible Zone)
The airspace of defined dimensions above the land areas or territorial waters of India, up to a vertical distance of 400 feet or 120 meters that has not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone in the airspace map for drone operations; and
the airspace up to a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 meters above the area located between a lateral distance of 8 kilometer and 12 kilometers from the perimeter of an operational airport.
Yellow zone (Intermediate zone)
The airspace of defined dimensions above the land areas or territorial waters of India within which drone operations are restricted and shall require permission from the concerned air traffic control authority.
The airspace above 400 feet or 120 meters in the designated green zone and the airspace above 200 feet or 60 meters in the area located between the distance of 8 kilometres and 12 kilometres from the perimeter of an operational airport.
Red Zone (No-Fly Zone)
The airspace of defined dimensions, above the land areas or territorial waters of India, or any installation or notified port limits specified by the Central Government beyond the territorial waters of India, within which drone operations shall be permitted only by the Central Government. 
The Rules prohibit the operation of a drone in a red zone or yellow zone without prior permission. However, no such provision is required in the Green Zone
The Central government will also be providing an airspace map, which will be accessible through a machine-readable Application Programming Interface (API) and interactive so that drone pilots will be able to chart their proposed flight plan to assess the zone(s) and to assess If an application for prior approval is required or not. It is mandatory to check the platform before commencing a drone operation
7. Remote Pilot License
The Rules prohibits the operation of a drone by any person other than a holder of a valid Remote Pilot License (RPL) enlisted on the Platform. An RPL is not required for a person operating a nano drone or operating a micro drone for non-commercial purposes.
The following criteria needs to be fulfilled to be eligible for an RPL:
(a) not less than eighteen years of age and not more than sixty-five years of age;
(b) have passed class tenth or its equivalent examination from a recognized Board;
(c) have completed the training prescribed by the DG for the applicable class of remote pilot license from an authorized remote pilot training organization.
If a person, fulfils the above criteria, he can obtain an RPL after completion of the training specified in the Drone Rules along with the successful completion of the proficiency test set by the Director General. 
The RPL shall be valid for a period of 10 years after which it can be renewed again.
8. Offences & Penalties
Any contravention of the Rules is a punishable offence under the Rules Besides this, any contravention may attract a penalty of up to a maximum of one lakh rupees under Section 10A Aircraft Act, 1934. Furthermore, the Rules also provide for cancellation or suspension of any license, certificate, authorization or approval granted under these Rules by the Director General in case of contravention of the Rules.
While the Drone Rules 2021 are indeed a landmark moment for the drone sector in India, there are still some clarifications required. For instance, the Drone Rules neither prohibit drone operations over private properties nor do they specify requiring any permission from landowners for such operations.
The establishment of the Digital Sky Platform is a progressive step towards watering down heavy compliances along with paperless approvals, which definitely encourage start-ups to explore this sector. We must wait for further clarifications, to see how the future of drone laws will shape up in India.
For information about the old Drone Rules, i.e. UAS Rules, 2021, please click here.
 Rule 1(3)(a) of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 1(6) of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 4 of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 13 of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 5 of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 12 of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 11 of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 28 of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 8 of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 9 of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 3
Rule 1(5) of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 2(1) (l) of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 2(1)(t) of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 2(1)(o) of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 18 of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 24(6) of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 24(3) of the Drone Rules, 2021
Rule 24(4) of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 24(5) of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 33 of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 34 of the Drone Rules, 2021
 Rule 35 of the Drone Rules, 2021