The Ministry of Civil Aviation in May 2021 approved experimental drone flight operations Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) for 20 start-ups and SMEs in the aerospace sector. The most notable entities in the list include BlueDart, Swiggy, Dunzo, and SpiceJet.
A conditional exemption was granted to them by MoCA from the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021 for conducting BVLOS experimental trials.
Dunzo’s ‘Medicine from the Sky Project’
Drone delivery of medicines is trending in the Indian Drone start-up space. This will be a big step towards emergency medical deliveries including Covid-19 vaccines during the pandemic. Case in point is Dunzo’s pilot programme called ‘Medicine from the Sky Project’. ‘Blue Dart Med-Express Consortium’ is also a part of this project.
Dunzo, a Bengaluru-based Hyperlocal delivery start-up will lead a mid-air consortium alongside industry experts to conduct experimental BVLOS (Below Visual Line of Sight) drone delivery flights for the healthcare supply chain. This programme is occurring in conjunction with the Government of Telangana, the World Economic Forum (WEF), Government Think-Tank Niti Ayog, and Health Net Global together with Dunzo Digital.
Garuda Aerospace delivering Food and Medicines.
Garuda Aerospace is a Chennai based ‘Drone-as-a-Service (DaaS) start-up which designs, builds, and customises drones for multi-use applications. They are using their drones to deliver food and medicines. There were trials for drone-based delivery of medicines, vegetables, food, and for spraying disinfectants. The trials were successfully concluded with 3 of Garuda Aerospace’s ‘White Knight Drones’.
This project occurred in conjunction with ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) for the delivery of items to quarantined houses of Covid-19 patients within ISRO’s residential employee housing colony.
UAV drones for Army Surveillance
IdeaForge is a Mumbai-based, IIT Alumni drone start-up which will supply fixed-wing UAV drones (high altitude variants of the SWITCH Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)) to the Indian Army. This has rekindled the trend of UAV drone start-ups in India since 2019. The order by the Indian Army to IdeaForge is valued at Rs. 145 Cr. The fixed wing UAVs can perform vertical take-off and landing, and are designed to weather high altitudes and harsh environments.
A conditional exemption was granted to SMEs by Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) from the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021 for conducting BVLOS experimental drone trials.
What’s in it for me?
The Government promoting the growth of the Indian Drone Industry ever since the Ministry of Civil Aviation gave the go-ahead for ‘No-Permission-No-Take-off (NPNT) compliant drone operations up to 400 feet above ground level (AGL) in designated green zones without the need for Air Traffic Control (ATC) permission.
The government efforts are aimed at streamlining the fledgling drone industry in India. Drone start-ups need only register on the Digital Sky Online portal to fly remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles.
Most of the drone aerospace start-ups are working to fight the Covid-19 health crisis through delivery of medicines and vaccines to hospitals. There is immense scope of winning defence projects for drone start-ups as well as other governmental projects. There is also demand for surveillance drones from city police departments, for sanitisation drives, and mainly for delivery of essential items.