Understand India’s New Drone and Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Laws – 2018

Understand India’s New Drone and Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Laws – 2018


Ritesh Aggarwal (Associate, Sarin & Co.)


Syed Tamjeed Ahmad (Associate, Sarin & Co.)

Edited by:

Nitin Sarin (Managing Partner, Sarin & Co.)

(Civil Aviation Requirements Section 3-Air Transport Series X Part 1, Issue I, dated 27.08.2018 needs to be read in tandem with this article)


Automation is the next big thing in aviation that has the potential to change the course of the industry for decades to come. This automation has the potential to effect aviation in various forms. But, as of now, drones or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (“RPAS” or “RPA’s”) are the most tangible example of this march towards automation.

A drone is primarily an unmanned aircraft, which maybe remotely controlled or may fly autonomously by virtue of an embedded software. It is projected that by 2020, drones would evolve into a USD$100 billion economy. However, this $100 billion opportunity comes with its own package of anxieties and legal uncertainties. For example, there is a growing concern among policy makers that drones can violate privacy rights of individuals. Similarly, there have been many incidents, nearby airports, where drones have come very close to manned aircraft, thereby causing safety concerns. Thus, governments all over the world have been trying to regulate drone operations so that a balance can be reached between the economic prospects and safety concerns. India has also recently come out with subordinate legislation (Civil Aviation Rules – “CARs”) that aim to regulate the operations of drones in its territory.

This article aims to give the layman an insight into the process of obtaining permission to fly his or her drone legally in India.

The aviation regulator in India i.e. the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (“DGCA”) had, from time to time, issued draft rules and sought comments from the public at large. After considering objections, recommendation and suggestions from the public on the last draft issued on 13th September 2017, the DGCA has now notified the CAR Series X Part 1 on 27.08.2018 effective from 1st December 2018 [1] (issued under the provisions of Rule 15A and Rule 133A of the Aircrafts Rules, 1937 herein after referred to as the ‘CAR)

The DGCA for the purpose of regulating the RPA’s have categorized RPA’s under five heads:

  1. Nano: Having less than or equal to 250 grams;
  2. Micro: Greater than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 Kg;
  3. Small: Greater than 2kg and less than or equal to 25 Kg;
  4. Medium: Greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 Kg; and
  5. Large: Greater than 150 Kg.


An applicant who is interested in importing or buying an RPA should file an application as per the format provided in Annexure IA and IB (of the CAR) respectively, along with the following documentation as explained hereafter:

The application process is divided on the basis of the location of purchase of RPA i.e.

  1. For RPA to be imported into India the applicant or the entity shall obtain:
    1. Equipment Type Approval,
    2. Import clearance as per Annexure -IA; and

thereafter, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (“DGFT”) shall issue a license for import of RPAS (except in case of Nano category). Upon receipt of the import license, the applicant shall apply to the DGCA for the issuance of a Unique Identification Number (“UIN”) or Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (“UOAP”) or both. It is specifically clarified that in the case of RPAS less than or equal to 250 gms, the pilot/operator need not obtain any import license from the DGFT.

  1. For RPA locally purchased in India, the applicant shall ensure that the RPAS shall have an Equipment Type Approval (“ETA”) from the Wireless Planning & Coordination (WPC) Wing of the Department of Telecommunications for operating in de-licensed frequency band(s). Thereafter, the applicant should submit the information as given in Annexure-IB along with application for issue of UIN or UAOP, as applicable.


All civil RPA applicants, except those in the Nano category, will have to apply to the DGCA for obtaining a UIN which will be valid for a particular make and model of RPA and any changes to the same will have to be communicated to the DGCA and other concerned authorities.


The UIN will be granted to those persons, in case the RPA is wholly owned by:

  1. By a citizen of India; or
  2. By the central or any state government or any company or corporation owned or controlled by either of the said governments or;
  3. By a company or a body corporate provided that:
    1. It is registered and has its principle place of business in India
    2. Its chairman and at least two-thirds of its directors are citizens of India; and;
    3. Its substantial ownership and effective control is vested in Indian nationals


  1. By a company or corporation registered elsewhere than in India, provided that such company or corporation has leased the RPAS to any organisation as mentioned in point 2 or 3 above.

The applicant who is eligible as per the provisions laid down by the DGCA in para 6.1 of the CAR must submit the duly filled application (Annexure IV) along with requisite documents as indicated in para 6.2 of CAR Series X part 1 through digital sky platform and must provide the following information:

  1. Contact details of owners / lessee with a valid CIN, GSTIN and/or PAN card;
  2. Purpose and base of operation;
  3. Specification of RPAS;
  4. Weight of compatible payload and maximum load carrying capacity of the RPA;
  5. RPA Flight Manual/ Manufacturer’s Operating Manual (as applicable);
  6. Manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines for RPA (as applicable);
  7. Manufacturer’s certificate of compliance of No Permission No Take Off (“NPNT”);
  8. ETA from WPC Wing, Department of Telecommunication for RPA;
  9. Security Clearance (not older than 5 years from the date of application) for all – from the Ministry of Home Affairs (“MHA”) except in case of central government or state government or any company or corporation owned or controlled by either of the said governments.
  10. In case of a citizen, he can either obtain security clearance from MHA or submit self-attested copies of at least two out of three valid identity proofs viz. Passport, Driving License or Aadhaar card. And in case of foreign remote piolets employed by Indian entities, the DGCA (except in case of center or state governments or any company or corporation owned/ controlled by them) shall forward the documents for security clearance to the security agencies in accordance with procedure being followed for Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorisation (“FATA”) in relation to airline pilots.
  11. The applicant shall submit a duly filled application form as per Annexure IV (through the digital sky platform). The UIN shall be issued in 2 working days provided all documents are complete.
  12. Fee for grant of UIN is Rs. 1000/-.


  • Except a) Nano category RPA’s operating below 50 feet in uncontrolled or enclosed airspace and b) Micro RPA operating below 200 feet in uncontrolled or enclosed airspace with prior intimation to the local police all civil RPA operators shall require a UAOP. This would mean that Nano and Micro category RPAS i.e. RPAS weighing less than or equal to 2 kg shall not be required to obtain a UAOP.
  • Other civil RPA’s (except as mentioned in the preceding paragraph) are required to submit an application along with the requisite fee for issuance of UAOP (Annexure-VI) with the DGCA at least 7 working days prior to actual commencement of operations along with several documents as listed in Annexure VI of the CAR.
  • The UAOP will be issued by DGCA with in 7 working days provided all documents are complete. Such UAOP shall be non-transferable and will be valid for a period of 5 years from the date of issuance. Further a copy of UAOP shall be, for their information, provided to the MHA, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (“BCAS”), Indian Air Force (“IAF”), Air Traffic Services (“ATS”) providers and the District Administrator (Superintendent of Police).
  • In cases of RPA’s taken on lease by an Indian entity from a foreign entity, the UOAP shall only be issued to the Indian organisation. The renewal of UAOP shall be subject to fresh security clearance from MHA.
  • Fee for issue of permit – Rs. 25,000/- as per Annexure VI.
  • Fee for renewal of Permit – Rs. 10,000/- as per Annexure VI.


It is the foremost duty of the operator to keep security and safety in mind before actual operation of the RPA. The operator shall be responsible for security and safety of the RPA and he or she shall bear in mind the various security and safety requirements as mentioned in paragraph 8 of the CAR.


Pilots of RPA’s (other than Nano and Micro RPAS operating in unrestricted airspace) are required to comply with the safety and security requirements and shall also comply with various conditions mentioned in para 12 of the CAR, such as:- the remote pilot shall have attained 18 years of age, shall have passed his or her class 10 exam in English and undergone ground and practical training. The remote pilot shall also obtain ground training at any DGCA approved Flying Training Organisation (“FTO”) along with various theory subjects. Further, in addition to the above mentioned conditions the pilots of RPA’s (other than Nano and Micro category) shall undergo practical training as detailed in Annexure-IX of theCAR.

Further, it will be the responsibility of the operator to maintain and repair the RPAS, along with maintenance of the ground control equipment in accordance with the manufacturers recommended and approved procedures. Moreover, the pilot shall maintain a record (in accordance with Annexure -X) of each RPA flight and make such records available to the DGCA on demand in accordance with para 10 of the CAR.


All RPAS operators are required to have insurance for the liability that they might incur for any damage to third party resulting from the accident/incident.


The DGCA in order to avoid and prevent any sort of accident in relation with RPA’s has prepared an exhaustive list of areas where the operation of RPAS are restricted (please see paragraph 13.1 of the CAR for more details), some of the restricted areas are listed as under:

  1. within a distance of 5 km from the perimeter of the airports at Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad;
  2. within a distance of 3 km from the perimeter of any civil, private or defense airports, other than those mentioned in the preceding para;
  3. within permanent or temporary prohibited, restricted and danger areas including Temporary Reserved Areas (“TRA”) and Temporary Segregated Areas (“TSA”) as notified in AIP;
  4. Within 25 km from the international border;
  5. Beyond 500m (horizontal) into sea from coast line provided the location of the ground station is on a fixed platform over land;
  6. Within 2 km from perimeter of strategic locations/ vital installations notified by the MHA unless clearance is obtained from the MHA;
  7. Within 3 km from radius of State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals;
  8. Over eco-sensitive zones around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries notified by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change without prior permission.


In case of violation of provisions of above said operating conditions, the following steps may be taken by concerned authorities:

  1. UIN/UAOP issued by DGCA may be suspended or cancelled;
  2. Penal action under the relevant sections of Indian Penal Code may be taken; and
  3. Necessary actions under the provisions of Aircraft Act, 1934 or the Aircraft Rules 1937 or any statuary provisions may be taken.

Important Points to Remember

  • Drone operations are permitted only during daytime and they have been restricted to Visual Line of Sight (VLOS).
  • Do not, and we strongly repeat, DO NOT fly in the vicinity of airports. While modern airliner engines are rated to ingest various objects while flying, i.e. birds, etc., they are NOT rated to ingest flying metallic objects. Any accident caused by careless operation of a drone or RPA may result in severe casualties to the passengers aboard an airliner.
  • Similarly, though commercial drone operations have been allowed but delivery of goods by drones has been explicitly barred. This implies, that the booming e-commerce industry cannot reap the benefits of this technology.
  • Moreover, for example the drone policy of EU (USPACE) and that of the United States (UTM) clearly state that the ultimate aim is to integrate manned airspace with the unmanned airspace. The Indian position has not been made public so far. Although the industry at large supports integration of airspaces and would also want global regulatory alignment over this issue.
  • Finally, India has identified 23 exclusive places, where drones would be put to extensive use for evaluating their future prospect. This is in line with the practice that is going on at an accelerated pace in the European Union, wherein more and more cities and industries are coming together for demonstrating the effectiveness of drones in various aspects of public life.[6]

[1] http://dgca.nic.in/cars/D3X-X1.pdf

[2] Para 5 of CAR Series X Part I Section 3 – Air Transport issued on 27th August, 2018, effective from 1st December 2018

[3] ibid Para 6.

[4] Para 6.2 of CAR Series X Part I Section 3 – Air Transport issued on 27th August, 2018, effective from 1st December 2018

[5] Para 7 of CAR Series X Part I Section 3 – Air Transport issued on 27th August, 2018, effective from 1st December 2018

[6] See https://www.sesarju.eu/news/sesar-launches-call-demonstrations-drone-integration (last visited 2/10/2018)

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