Delivery of goods via drones on the anvil as enabling norms likely this year

A regulatory framework for delivery of cargo with the help of drones is likely this year as the government is in advanced stages of consultation with the industry on beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations, a senior industry executive told Mint.

Currently, the regulations do not permit drone operations beyond the visual line of sight of the drone operator. While the government permitted 20 entities to conduct experimental BVLOS flights in 2021, so far regulatory structure for implementation of these flights is yet to see the light of the day. In fact, online food delivery platform Swiggy had also invited bids in 2022 for the drone-as-a-service (DaaS) market for its grocery service – Instamart – but the lack of a formal structure has prevented such operations in the commercial space.

“We will submit a proposal on how to operate BVLOS flights. There is a huge pressure from the industry that the visual line of sight operations is not serving the purpose completely. So, there is something that we are discussing called strategic BVLOS,” Alok Sharma, chairman, Drone Destination, told Mint.

The Delhi-based Drone Destination is a drone pilot training organization with a capacity to train 10,000 pilots a year. The company will also now offer end-to-end aftersales solutions for the drone ecosystem and plans to establish 250 such drone hubs over the next three months with a long-term aim of 1,000 such hubs in two years.

“Before the complete unmanned traffic management comes into picture, we (stakeholders) are trying to assess whether there is a possibility of flying a drone for a longer distance such as 5 km and then a remote control takes over the drone. We are working on these ideas and will demonstrate them to the authorities,” Sharma said.

“I expect some progress this year, we will see some demonstration. I think AIIMS Delhi-AIIMS Jhajjar is going to be a good test case,” he added.

He was implying a drone test flight on the air corridor between the All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospitals in Delhi and Haryana’s Jhajjar.

An email sent to the aviation ministry remained unanswered till press time.

Drone Destination is already seeing high interest and application of drones as a service for surveillance, inspection, spraying in industries such as power, oil, railways, roadways, and agriculture. The company is now gearing up to train trainers for operating drones in India, in order to fully utilize its drone training potential of 10,000 pilots per year.

In India, the drone industry received a major push with the liberalization of regulatory framework for the industry in the form of Drone Rules 2021. To promote the indigenous drone industry, the government had also notified the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and drone components in September 2021 with a total incentive of 120 crore spread over three years. The government is also working towards making India a global drone hub by 2030.

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Published: 16 Apr 2024, 07:43 PM IST

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