Zomato, Swiggy, Dunzo can start testing drone deliveries as India starts doling out permits

Drone used by Zomato for a test delivery in 2019Zomato
  • DGCA has given approval to Zomato, Swiggy, Dunzo, Asteria Aerospace, Spicejet and others to begin testing beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drones for deliveries.
  • The DGCA has begun sending out permission letters to these firms and also providing them with specific airspace in which they can run these tests.
  • Zomato had first announced a successful test delivery using drones in India in June 2019.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has just given the official nod to delivery companies like Zomato, Swiggy, Dunzo to begin testing beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drones for deliveries.

"We have been working on powering delivery via drones for some time now and welcome this move from DGCA to test our systems. We are excited to build the future of aerial food delivery in India," said a Zomato Spokesperson.

According to reports, officials have confirmed that a total of 13 companies have been given the approval which also includes Spicejet and Asteria Aerospace, which is backed by Reliance.

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“It's an experimental project, essentially a regulatory sandbox where DGCA wants companies to test flying drones outside of visual line of sight and determine what are the requirements for safe operation when the regulation actually comes. It's not like we can start full fledged operations,” Neel Mehta, cofounder of Asteria Aerospace told Business Insider.

The DGCA has begun sending out permission letters to these firms and also providing them with specific airspace in which they can run these tests.

“We received our approval on May 21. The plan is for two months we will be carrying out these experiments in an approved airspace of 20 kilometres, which is isolated from aircraft and urban population or any other risks. We will be using it for long distance aerial surveys of pipelines, railways and roadways,” said Mehta.

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The approvals come at a time when “drone delivery” has been the talk of the town during the coronavirus pandemic, as it will mean truly contactless delivery. Globally too drone deliveries have taken off. US-based unicorn food delivery startup Postmates had also begun testing robot deliveries.

In India, in June 2019, Zomato had first announced a successful test delivery using drones in India. In the run, the drone covered a distance of 5 kilometres in about 10 minutes, with a peak speed of 80 kmph, carrying a load of 5 kgs. Zomato had also acquired TechEagle innovation, a drone startup in December 2018, leading to their experiments with drones.

In 2016, the government announced a new draft policy, under which it proposed to set up a dedicated drone corridor, create drone ports and allow 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in manufacturing the remotely piloted aircraft in the country. This policy also hinted at making room for aerial delivery of goods in India.

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In May 2019, the DGCA had asked interested organizations to submit Expression of Interest (EOI) for experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations (BVLOS) of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)/Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Zomato had then said that it is forming a consortium as per DGCA’s guidelines to carry out experimental BVLOS operations.

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