Drone delivery trials to take wing by R-Day

V Rishi Kumar Hyderabad | Updated on January 11, 2021

If successful, will open a new flight path for emergency supply of medicines, vaccines

Is it a bird, a plane? No, it’s drone delivery. Come Republic Day and trial runs of drone deliveries for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) will be taken up after being granted approval by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Allowing BVLOS operations would enable unmanned aerial flights like drones to cover longer distances.

In a country where pizzas and biryani get delivered faster than medicines, will we see emergency use approval of drones for delivery of Covid-19 vaccines?

Several groups are gearing for pilots of drone deliveries in Channarayapatna in Karnataka’s Hassan district, a two hour drive from Bengaluru. The trials would run for 100 hours over 60 days for packages of medicines, food and other items.

Says Ankit Kumar, managing partner, Alternative Global India (AGI), a consultancy, “While the drone delivery trails related to BVLOS were to be conducted in April 2020 after the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Director-General of Civil Aviation accorded clearance to a few players, we had to later secure the Ministry of Home Affairs approval, which we recently received.”

Commercial use soon

Once the test deliveries are completed, the findings and Proof of Concept will be submitted to the DGCA, explains Kumar. Then, as soon as the DGCA comes up with a policy framework, companies will be able to deploy drones for commercial applications.

AGI is helping over 25 companies create drone inclusion roadmap for delivery and the unmanned air traffic management (UAM) system. The company is spearheading several initiatives to enable drone delivery for emergency goods such as Covid vaccine, especially in difficult terrains.

Twenty consortiums have been selected to conduct 100-hours of BVLOS trials at different locations. AGI is a part of two consortiums — Dunzo Air and Clear Sky — conducting trials on package delivery.

“As an industry body, we are expecting DGCA’s Policy 2.0 draft to be in place by December 2021 and BVLOS commercial flights to begin in 2022,” Kumar said.

Data to companies

The trials are expected to give data/inputs to companies to plan their business and the roadmap for commercial deliveries. Multiple stakeholders in forming a consortium include the drone manufacturer, operator, service provider, 3D mapping provider, mobile network operator and data analytics provider.

Published on January 11, 2021

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