BENGALURU/NEW DELHI :
Hyperlocal delivery startups including Dunzo, Swiggy and Zomato can begin to test fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drones for deliveries, after receiving permission from Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
A senior DGCA official, who didn’t want to be named, confirmed the development that along with the delivery start-ups, budget airline SpiceJet, Reliance-backed drone startup Asteria Aerospace were among the 13 consortia which had received the approvals to test fly these drones.
The DGCA wanted to see the commercial possibilities which could be achieved through the BVLOS drones, and set up the BVLOS Experiment Assessment and Monitoring (BEAM) committee, in the first half of 2019, calling in for applications.
After multiple rounds of documentation, face to face meetings, and scrutiny the BEAM committee selected Zomato, Swiggy, Zipline and Redwing, and Throttle Aerospace Systems for long-range or beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone experiments.
Amongst the consortia selected is also the consortium of Throttle Aerospace Systems, which plans to start test by July this year, in the airspace, outskirts of Bengaluru. The company plans to test the delivery of critical items like medicine in the first phase and then move to other deliveries involving essentials, overtime.
“In terms of commercial viability, there are many. For instance, logistics firms are interested in BVLOS and can use these drones to make faster and cheaper deliveries. We will however start with tests of critical items like medicines in the first phase, starting July," said Nagendran Kandasamy, founder and managing director of Throttle Aerospace systems.
As a part of its consortium, Throttle Aerospace Systems has partnered with Swiss-based company, Involi for unmanned traffic management, as well as Honeywell for safety management and an analytics report on the tests conducted.
The other consortiums also include SpiceXpress, the dedicated air cargo service of domestic airliner SpiceJet, which might look at delivery of cargoes through these tests.
The consortia, which have received formal letters to start tests will need to clock at least 100 hours of flight time in airspace and submit their respective reports to the DGCA.
In June, last year, Zomato had successfully tested its first drone delivery, for which it used a hybrid drone and covered a distance of 5 km in about ten minutes carrying a payload of 5 kg.
The drone covered the distance at a peak speed of 80 km per hour, Zomato informed then.
Swiggy and Zomato didn't respond to queries sent on Wednesday.
“This is a great step from DGCA to test the commercial viability of BVLOS. However, these players will have to keep the urban sensibilities of Indian town and cities in mind and provide a realistic picture for their drone operations tests,“ said a founder of a drone technology startup, who asked not to be named.