India Simplifies and Expands Drone Export Policy, Boosting Industry Growth

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New Delhi, June 23, 2023: In a significant move, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has introduced a more streamlined and flexible policy for the export of civilian drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from India. This decision aligns with India’s Foreign Trade Policy 2023, which emphasizes the facilitation of high-tech exports and specifically promotes the export of domestically manufactured drones and UAVs for civilian purposes, while also taking into account India’s international obligations regarding non-proliferation.

Previously, all types of drones and UAVs fell under the controlled/restricted category 5B of the SCOMET (Special Chemicals Organisms Material Equipment and Technology) list, as specified in Appendix 3 of Schedule 2 of the ITCHS classification of Import and Export Items. This list encompasses items with potential dual-use applications, meaning they can be utilized for both civilian and military purposes. Exporting such items required a SCOMET license, posing challenges for the industry in exporting drones with limited capabilities that were solely intended for civilian use.

After extensive consultations with stakeholders and the public/industry, the policy on drones and UAVs for civilian use under SCOMET has been amended through DGFT Notification No. 14 dated June 23, 2023. The amended policy aims to simplify and liberalize the export process for drones and UAVs. Under the new rules, drones and UAVs not falling within the specified categories of the SCOMET list, having a range equal to or less than 25 km, and a payload capacity of no more than 25 kgs (excluding software and technology) solely for civilian use, will now be subject to the General Authorization for Export of Drones (GAED). This onetime general license is valid for three years.

This policy change eliminates the need for drone manufacturers/exporters with GAED authorization to obtain a SCOMET license for every export shipment of similar civilian drones within the three-year validity period. However, post-reporting and other documentary requirements still apply, reducing the compliance burden on the industry in terms of applying for a SCOMET license for each export of civilian drones or UAVs.

This progressive step will greatly facilitate drone manufacturers and the industry at large in exporting drones with ease, promoting a favorable environment for doing business and boosting exports from India. Additionally, this policy revision positions India as a global manufacturing hub for drones and UAVs, encouraging start-ups and new drone manufacturers to scale up and explore global markets.

By enabling Indian drone manufacturers to access larger markets and compete on a global scale, this policy change will ultimately stimulate economic activity. Moreover, the relaxation of export controls on drones is expected to foster innovation and technological advancements in the drone and UAV industry.

The detailed procedure for obtaining the General Authorization for Export of Drones (GAED) for civilian drones and UAVs has been outlined in DGFT Public Notice No.19 dated June 23, 2023, and is readily accessible on the DGFT website.


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