Ban on Import of Drones

News: The Government last week banned the import of drones barring for R&D, defence and security purposes.

Details:

  • This is the latest in a slew of measures the Government has taken to promote make in India drones.
  • Before this order, import of drones was “restricted” and needed prior clearance of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and an import license from DGFT.
  • For its defence needs, India imports from Israel and the US. Consumer drones such as those used for wedding photography come from China and drones for light shows also come from China apart from Russia.
  • Indian drone manufacturers and service providers arrange drones for a variety of use cases such as survey and mapping, security and surveillance, inspection, construction progress monitoring and drone delivery.
  • Most drone manufacturers in India assemble imported components in India, and there is less of manufacturing. What the import ban will do is that it will ensure that an Indian manufacturer has the control of the IP, design and software which gives him or her a total understanding and control of the product.
  • Over a period of time this can enable further indigenisation.

Latest order:

  • The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) issued an order prohibiting with immediate effect the import of drones in Completely-Built-Up (CBU), Semi-knocked-down (SKD) or Completely-Knocked-down (CKD) forms. Import of drones 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 will be allowed.
  • For this, there has to be an import authorisation obtained from the DGFT.
  • The import of drone components is “free”, implying that no permission is needed from the DGFT allowing local manufacturers to import parts likes diodes, chips, motors, lithium ion batteries etc.
  • The ban is likely to hurt those who use drones for photography and videography for weddings and events.
  • These drones primarily come from China because they are cheaper and easy-to-use and India still has a lot of catching up to do in manufacturing them.

Domestic Drone Manufacturing:

  • In August last year, the Government brought out liberalised Drone Rules, 2021 which 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.
  • R&D entities too have been provided blanket exemption from all kinds of permissions, and 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”.
  • Foreign manufacturers will be encouraged to set up assembly lines in India.