Trials to demonstrate long-distance drone delivery flights take-off in India

This month sees the start of several long-distance drone delivery trials according to a report in India’s Economic Times. Drone flights are currently limited to within visual line of sight, or 450 metres from the operator, in India.

A consortium of companies led by ANRA Technologies plans to carry out long-range drone deliveries including medicine delivery in cooperation with IIT Ropar, and online food deliveries in cooperation with Swiggy in Jawara, Uttar Pradesh.

Separately, teams led by Throttle Aerospace and Daksha Unmanned Systems will pilot deliveries of medicines in Gauribidanur in Karnataka and Thiruvalluvar outside Chennai. Throttle Aerospace will conduct pre-trials on June 18 and 19, before a formal launch of its experimental flight on June 21. It has partnered with Narayana Healthcare to test medicine deliveries, says the newspaper report.

In May 2019, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) released an expression of interest to conduct experimental beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone flights before framing rules for drone-based deliveries and other long-range cases.

Of the 34 consortia that said they were interested in participating in the BVLOS experiments, the BEAM Committee granted initial approval to 20, including those floated by budget airline SpiceJet, Nandan Nilekani-backed ShopX, and Google-backed Dunzo. So far, only ANRA, Throttle Aerospace and Daksha Unmanned Systems have received the final go ahead.

“We hope to release the draft guidelines for public feedback by December 31, 2021 and the final guidelines by March 31, 2022,” said Amber Dubey, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

“India is a little behind, despite this push,” said Amit Ganjoo, founder and CEO of ANRA Technologies. “In many parts of the US and Europe, innovation and experimentation started happening back in 2015 and now the rules are falling in place and they are operationalising the small UAS (unmanned aircraft system) segment”.

Economic Times adds: These developments come shortly after Telangana government said it would look to use drones to deliver Covid vaccines. HLL Infra Tech, a subsidiary of government-owned HLL Lifecare, floated an expression of interest for delivery of vaccines and drugs using drones in areas with difficult terrain, reported on Sunday. The drones being sought by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will need to travel up to 35 kilometres and fly at an altitude of at least 100 metres, it said.

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