The Evolving Landscape of Urban Air Mobility in India

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death in India. Annually, about 620,000 premature deaths occur due to air pollution in Indian cities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown, people witnessed the benefits of better air quality, and how quickly the environment restored itself when emissions were cut down, making a compelling case for electric mobility. During the lockdown, air pollution in Delhi dropped by 79%, primarily due to reduced road traffic and limited industrial activities. The PM 2.5 levels in six cities across India i.e., Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru dropped by 45-88% during both the initial and final stages of the national lockdown. On the other hand, these cities experienced a spike in pollution levels by 2-6 times once the lockdown was lifted -- with Delhi witnessing the sharpest drop and the steepest rise.

This rising urbanization, growing population, aging infrastructure, and an e-commerce boom, necessitate a modern, safe, and affordable mode of transportation. Urban Air Mobility (UAM) offers an opportunity for seamless, secure, and rapid transportation to alleviate current and potential challenges faced in urban areas.

UAM/Drones were earlier used for surveillance and military purposes only. However, today drones are used in agriculture, energy and utility, mining, media, and entertainment industry among other sectors. The drone space in India is fast catching up with other nations and gaining considerable momentum. It is projected that India’s drone market could reach up to INR 500 billion (US$6.8 billion) in the next five years. India is now looking at the prospect of using drones for delivery services in the country to reduce road congestion due to the increasing number of ride aggregators in urban areas.

Figure 1: Drone-based applications in India                                                    Source: PWC – Data on wings

2.0 Enabling Ecosystem for UAM in India

Figure 2: Key Enabler for UAM Ecosystem                              Source: Customized Energy Solutions Analysis

2.2 Policy Support

The Central Government notified the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and drone components on September 30, 2021. Under the scheme, a total incentive of INR 120 crore is spread over three fiscal years which is nearly double the combined turnover of all domestic drone manufacturers in FY 2020-21.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has opened the application window for those manufacturers of drones and drone components, who may have crossed the PLI eligibility threshold for the full fiscal year (April 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022).

The eligibility criteria for the PLI scheme for drones and drone components include an annual sales turnover of INR 2 crore for drone companies and INR 50 lacs for drone components manufacturers and value addition of over 40% of sales turnover.

Under this scheme, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has published a provisional list of 14 companies based on the financial results submitted by PLI applicants for the 10 months (April 1, 2021, to Jan.31, 2022). These include five drone manufacturers and nine drone component manufacturers.

Apart from the PLI scheme, the Government of India has initiated a series of reforms to make India a global drone hub by 2030. This includes notification of the liberalized Drone Rules, 2021; publishing of Drone Airspace Map 2021 which opens nearly 90% of Indian airspace as a green zone, UAS Traffic Management (UTM) policy framework 2021; Drone Certification Scheme 2022 which makes it easier for drone manufacturers to obtain a type certificate; Drone Import Policy, 2022 which bans import of foreign-made drones; and the Drone (Amendment) Rules, 2022 which abolishes the requirement of a drone pilot license for drone operations.


2.3 The Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021

In June 2020, the Ministry of Civil Aviation released the draft Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Rules 2020 (UAS Rules or Rules). After seeking comments and holding consultations with stakeholders for almost 10 months, they launched the second draft of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) rule in 2021[1]

2.3.1 Category - The unmanned aircraft are classified based on the maximum all up weight including its pay load.


Figure 3: Categories of UAM                                                                                       Source: UAS Rules, 2021

Nano aircraft are classified based on following performance parameters, namely:

  1. Maximum speed of flight is limited to 15 m/s (54 Km/hr)
  2. Maximum attainable height limited to 15 m and range limited to 100 m from the remote pilot

2.3.2 DGCA Guidelines for UAS

  • An authorized manufacturer or importer of drones can sell its devices only to an individual or entity approved by the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
  • The DGCA will have the power to inspect a UAS manufacturing or maintenance facility before granting any authorization under these rules
  • No UAS shall operate in India unless there is in existence a valid third-party insurance policy to cover the liability that may arise on account of a mishap involving such UAS
  • Only nano class drones will be allowed to operate in India in general and only a qualified remote pilot will be permitted to operate heavier drones
  • All unmanned aircraft must be equipped with the following equipment:
  1. Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver(s) for horizontal and vertical position fixing
  2. Autonomous Flight Termination System or Return to Home (RTH) option
  3. Geo-fencing capability
  4. Flashing anti-collision strobe lights
  5. Flight controller
  6. Flight data logging capability
  7. No Permission – No Take-off (NPNT) compliant
  8. Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) transponder equipment (if intended to operate beyond 400 feet/120 m AGL)
  9. Reliable Command and Control Link
  10. Real-time tracking system
  11. Barometric equipment with capability for remote sub-scale setting
  12. Detect and Avoid (if intended to operate beyond 400 feet/120 m AGL)
  13. Manufacturer Serial Number
  14. Fire-resistant identification plate for engraving the UIN
  15. Two-way communication system (if intended to operate beyond 400 feet/120 m AGL)
  16. 360 degrees collision avoidance system
  • The equipment specified in clauses (d), (f), (g), (h), (j), (k), (l), (o) and (p) are not mandatory with respect to nano unmanned aircraft.
  • The equipment specified in clauses (h), (l) and (o) are not mandatory with respect to micro unmanned aircraft
  • The small, medium and large unmanned aircraft shall be equipped with an emergency recovery system to ensure protection from damage and public injury in any failure conditions

Operations of UAS – Only pre-authorised UAS shall be permitted to perform the any task except Nano unmanned drones

  1. Flight Restrictions:
  2. No Micro unmanned aircraft shall fly beyond a height of 60 meter above ground level or a maximum speed of 25 meter per second
  3. No Small unmanned aircraft shall fly beyond a height of 120 meter above ground level or a maximum speed of 25 meter per second
  4. Medium or Large unmanned aircraft shall fly in accordance with the conditions specified in the Unmanned Aircraft System Operator Permit issued by the Director General
  5. No unmanned aircraft shall fly in a restricted area unless specifically permitted by the Director General
  6. No unmanned aircraft, except Nano unmanned aircraft, shall be flown by a person who is not a licenced remote pilot


  1. Permission for flight - No unmanned aircraft shall be flown:
  2. Within a distance of 5 km from the perimeter of international airports at Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad
  3. Within a distance of 3 km from the perimeter of any civil, private or defence airports
  4. Above the Obstacle Limitation Surfaces (OLS) or Procedures for Air Navigation Services-Aircraft Operations (PANS-OPS) surfaces, whichever is lower, of an operational aerodrome, specified in the rules related to Height Restrictions for Safeguarding of Aircraft Operations
  5. Within permanent or temporary Prohibited, Restricted and Danger Areas including Temporary Reserved Area (TRA), and Temporary Segregated Area (TSA), as notified in Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) by Airport Authority of India
  6. Within 25 km from international border which includes Line of Control (LoC), Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL)
  7. Beyond 500 m (horizontal) into sea from coast line provided the location of ground station is on fixed platform over land
  8. Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL) lighthouses and coastal radar stations of the Indian Coast Guard
  9. Within 3 km from perimeter of military installations/ facilities/ where military activities/ exercises are being carried out unless clearance is obtained from the local military installation/facility
  10. Within 5 km radius from Vijay Chowk in Delhi. However, this is subject to any additional conditions/ restrictions imposed by local law enforcement agencies/ authorities in view of the security
  11. Within 2 km from perimeter of strategic locations/ vital installations notified by Ministry of Home Affairs unless clearance is obtained from Ministry of Home Affairs
  12. Within 3 km from radius of State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals
  13. From a mobile platform such as a moving vehicle, ship or all types of sea going vessels including makeshift floating platforms or aircraft
  14. Over eco-sensitive zones around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries notified by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change without prior permission
  15. The Central Government or any other person authorised in this behalf by the Central Government may permit flying of unmanned aircraft in select restricted areas on request made by any Government Authority or any airport Operator in exceptional circumstances
  • Payload:
  1. No unmanned aircraft shall carry any payload, save, as specified in the Certificate of Manufacture and Airworthiness issued by the Director General
  2. No person shall drop or project or cause or permit to be dropped or projected from an unmanned aircraft system in motion anything except in a manner and procedure as specified by the Director General


Drone Port

  1. Droneports are designated areas dedicated to facilitate take-off and landing of the UAS. With time these droneports should be upgraded to facilitate, battery charging stations or a battery swapping station
  2. Droneports owners may be designated as DSP and they must maintain a record of every take-off/landing activity or any other activity taking place on their property
  3. UAS must be equipped with lights to make it possible for other aircrafts to avoid collision. Also, the droneport show be well lit for smooth landing and take-off.

Example – Use of UAM technology in Vaccine distribution

3.0 Way Forward     

IESA has conducted a roundtable on Urban Air Mobility (UAM) at the annual conference, World Energy Storage Day (WESD) in September 2021, to discuss the feasibility of UAM in India. Also, IESA collaborated with the European Space Agency to organize a Global Open Webinar on Urban Air Mobility (UAM) & Technology Development on December 15, last year. IESA seeks to undertake a feasibility study for drone delivery services to reduce road traffic in India.

Published: 25th May 2022

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