In an attempt to push drone adoption in hyperlocal, ecommerce and logistics sectors, the Indian civil aviation authority recently approved B2B ecommerce startup ShopX and air cargo company SpiceXpress among five other consortiums to conduct long-range (LoRa) drone flights. Previously, the aviation body had also given permission to hyperlocal delivery startup Dunzo and drone startup Throttle Aerospace to test LoRa drone flights, which is expected to start the trial next month.
LoRa drone flights are low-powered drones that are specifically designed for long-distance travel.
ShopX cofounder and CEO Amit Sharma said the company will be developing drone technologies that could be deployed in the next 18 months. He further told ET that the B2C applications of drones will take some time, whereas B2B deliveries were already feasible.
Sharma said that the company is now looking at using drones to enable deliveries in a point-to-point manner to facilitate low-cost deliveries with quick turnaround time. More than anything, it is much cheaper compared to on-road deliveries, he added.
DGCA’s Drone Experiments For India
The decision is part of the directorate general of civil aviation’s (DGCA) drone experiments, which was initiated in May 2019 as a step towards allowing the use of drones beyond the line of sight (BVLOS).
Amber Dubey, joint secretary at the ministry of civil aviation, said that these agencies will be conducting their tests, and based on the results, the aviation body will then develop the entire framework for BVLOS drone operations in the country. “It’ll take close to 6-8 months to finalise the rules,” he added.
Drone Regulations Weighing The Sector Down?
This development also comes ahead of DGCA’s pilot training programme scheduled on February 4 and 5 at Begumpet, Hyderabad. Thirty consortiums had applied to participate as the DGCA mandates pilot training before drone experiments.
Earlier this month, the ministry of civil aviation announced a ‘one-time’ opportunity for voluntary disclosure for all drones and drone operators which began on January 14. The entities can register their drones on Digital Sky Portal on or before January 31, 2020.
Failing to comply with valid documents would result in a hefty fine for individuals and drone owners. Such individuals could also face strict action under various sections of Indian penal code (IPC) as stated in the civil aviation requirements (CAR) and aircraft act.
The heavy regulations have been a major factor in the slow drone adoption and development in India.
As is evident in the DataLabs By Inc42’s Drone Technology: India Opportunity Report 2019, the total funding raised by drone startups in India from 2014 to 2018 was just $16.56 Mn which accounts for a mere 2.26% of the total deeptech funding ($732 Mn) in this period.