Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

Import Ban on Drones


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Drones

Mains level: Ban on drone import

The Government has banned the import of drones barring for R&D, defense, and security purposes.

Why in news?

  • To promote Make-in-India drones.
  • Before this order, the import of drones was “restricted” and needed prior clearance of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and an import license from DGFT.

India’s sources of Imports

  • For its defense 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.

Why need drones?

  • 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.

What does the order say?

  • 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 recognized by the Central or State governments, government-recognized R&D entities, and drone manufacturers for R&D purposes as well as for defense and security purposes will be allowed.
  • For this, there has to be an import authorization 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 like diodes, chips, motors, lithium-ion batteries, etc.

Steps taken to promote indigenous drone manufacturing

  • In August last year, the Government brought out liberalized Drone Rules, 2021 which reduced the number of forms to be filled to seek authorization from 25 to five.
  • They also dispensed with the need for security clearance before any registration or issuance of the license.
  • 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.

Why such a blanket ban?

  • Most drone manufacturers in India assemble imported components in India, and there is less manufacturing.
  • The import ban will ensure that an Indian manufacturer has 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 indigenization.

Possible repercussions of the ban

  • 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.

Also read

[Sansad TV] Perspective: Keeping Drones in Check


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