Editor’s note – The Ministry of Civil Aviation has replaced the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rules 2021, which were notified in March this year, with the new, liberalised Drone Rules 2021.
The Ministry notified the drone rules on 26 August, after feedback from academia, startups, and other stakeholders supposedly indicated the earlier drone rules to be “restrictive in nature”.
According to a statement by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, India has the potential to be a global drone hub by 2030. The new drone policy is expected to help in fulfilling this potential.
As we move into a new drone regime for India, here’s a brief look back at the history of drones in India.
Looking Back: Drones In India
The Indian Army was the first to acquire unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs in the late 1990s from Israel, and the Indian Air Force and Navy followed suit.
India first used military drones during the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan. At first, the Indian Air Force deployed manned English Canberra PR57 aircraft for photo reconnaissance along the Line of Control, but this system proved highly inefficient and strategically weak over the mountainous Kargil terrain.
After India lost a Canberra PR57 to Pakistani infrared homing missiles, Israel discreetly supplied the Indian Air Force with the IAI Heron and Searcher drones, which were useful for acquiring target information along the Line of Control.
Since Kargil, India has procured numerous Israeli military unmanned aircraft. In 2009, the Indian Air Force purchased 10 Harops in a $100 million contract with Israel Aerospace Industries.
In 2013, the Indian Air Force made a $280 million deal with Israel Aerospace Industries for a new series of Heron medium-altitude, long-endurance drones