The Indian government recently banned the import of drones except for R&D, defence and security purposes. This is the latest in a slew of measures the Government has taken to promote make in India drones.
What does the order say?
The Directorate General of Foreign Trade or DGFT under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued an order on February 9.
The order prohibited, with immediate effect, the import of drones in Completely-Built-Up, Semi-knocked-down or Completely-Knocked-down forms.
Import of drones will be allowed:
- by government entities,
- educational institutions recognised by Central or State governments,
- government recognised R&D entities
- and drone manufacturers
for R&D purpose as well as for defence and security purposes, provided an import authorisation is obtained from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.
The order also says that import of drone components is “free” implying that no permission is needed from the DGFT.
Local manufacturers heavily rely on imported drone components to assemble their own drones. This allows them to import parts likes diodes, chips, motors, lithium ion batteries, etc.
What did the law say before this order?
Before this order, import of drones was “restricted”. It needed prior clearance of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA and an import license from the DGFT.
However, smaller drones known as nano category drones did not require an import clearance or license. Drones that weigh less than 250 grams and flew below 50 feet or 15 meters were included under nano category drones.
What other measures has the Government taken to promote indigenous drone manufacturing?
In August 2021, the Government brought out liberalised Drone Rules, 2021. This reduced the number of forms to be filled to seek authorisation from 25 to five.
They also dispensed with the need for a security clearance before any registration or issuance of licence.
Under these rules, R&D entities too have been provided blanket exemption from all kinds of permissions.
Restrictions on foreign-owned companies registered in India have also been removed.
The Government has also announced a production-linked incentive scheme for drones and drone components with the aim to make India a “global drone hub by 2030”.
It has allocated ₹120 crore for a period of three years.
How will the import ban affect the drone industry?
Indian drone manufacturers and service providers arrange drones for a variety of use cases such as:
- survey and mapping,
- security and surveillance,
- construction progress monitoring
- and drone delivery
The ban is likely to hurt those who use drones for photography and videography for weddings and events. The drones used in these instances primarily come from China because they are cheaper and easy-to-use.
India still has a lot of catching up to do in manufacturing them.