The Ministry of Civil Aviation has conditionally exempted the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) from the Unmanned Aircraft Rules, 2021. The exemption is to study drone-based vaccine delivery. ICMR will conduct this study in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.
The scope of approval extends to conducting a feasibility study of drone-based Covid-19 vaccine delivery. The Unmanned Aircraft Rules were recently notified, on 12th March 2021. Based on an undertaking by ICMR, the Ministry has exempted it from the Rules for a year, subject to certain conditions.
The order exempts ICMR from the rules for one year or ‘until further orders, whichever is earlier. ‘Until further orders’ should mean until the Digital Sky platform is operational, as indicated by the Ministry in previous exemption orders. Notably, the ceiling for exempted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) is 400 ft. above ground level.
The Unmanned Aircraft Rules, 2021
Prior to the 2021 Rules, Aircraft Rules, 1937 governed the operation of RPAS or drones and exemptions were also granted as such. Rule 70 of the new 2021 Rules grant Central Government the power to exempt any unmanned aircraft system from the operation of the rules. These exemptions are being granted in view of the ongoing development of the Digital Sky Platform.
Last month, the Government exempted the Adani Defence Systems for counter-drone demonstrations. This exemption was given to the company for only one day. DGCA has also exempted Indian Oil to implement drone-based surveillance. The government had also exempted the Ministry of Agriculture to use drones for remote sensing data collection and the Kochi Metro for water transport system project. However, these exemptions were granted under Section 160 of the Aircraft Rules, exempting them from Section 3 of the Civil Aviation Requirements, Series X, Part I. You can read a copy of the order here.
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