The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has given approval to 13 companies including online food ordering apps — Zomato and Swiggy, drone maker Throttle Aerospace Systems, hyperlocal logistics firm Dunzo and others to conduct experimental flights beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drones, according to several media reports.
While the timeline for commercial use of drones for deliveries remains unclear, there have been several instances in the past year when the DGCA has shown intent in allowing private companies to experiment with the feasibility of deliveries via drones.
The selected firms are expected to start conducting their experimental flights in the first week of July and are mandated to complete a minimum 100 hours of flight time in airspace designated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) by September 30.
While Throttle Aerospace Systems and Dunzo had received approvals in March, the Covid-19 imposed lockdown delayed approval for the remaining 11 companies. ShopX, Spicexpress, Zipline, Redwing, and ClearSky Flight are also in the list of companies that have received approvals.
DGCA has been conducting experiments for next-generation civil aviation requirements and had invited applications for conducting BVLOS experiments of remotely piloted aircraft in May 2019.
Last June, Zomato had tested its first drone delivery with a fusion of rotary-wing and fixed wings. It successfully covered a distance of 5 km carrying a payload of 5 kgs in 10 minutes. During the same time, a district hospital in Uttarakhand had used a drone that traveled 36 km for delivering blood samples.
Last month, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had provided conditional exemptions to drones deployed by an authorized entity for aerial surveillance, photography, and public announcements.
Drones are believed to make hyperlocal and last-mile logistics efficient and inexpensive. The use of the aerial vehicle is not going to be used at scale in the near future, but the enthusiasm of these companies and the government have been speeding up the efforts towards enabling commercial activities using drones.