In April this year, an offshoot of Alphabet Inc’s Google in the US has become the first drone operator to receive approval as an airline, an important step that gives it the legal authority to begin dropping products to customers.
The subsidiary, Wing Aviation LLC, now has the same certifications that smaller airlines receive from the US Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation. It plans to begin routine deliveries of small consumer items in two rural communities in Virginia within months.
Well, if it is happening in the US, can India be far behind? Obviously not. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has taken a small but significant next step in firming out the government’s policy on allowing drones for civilian and commercial purposes.
It has sought additional details from seven consortia that had applied to conduct long-range, or beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), drone experiments. The seven that were picked include food and delivery companies Zomato, Swiggy and Dunzo, medical delivery providers Zipline and Redwing, and large enterprises Tata Advanced Systems Limited.
At least two of these companies, Redwing and Zipline, have partnered with Uttarakhand and Maharashtra to enable the delivery of drugs, vaccines and blood packets to remote areas. With both solutions being largely focused on operating outside metropolitan regions, the experiment will be the commercial launch of their services.
Like in the US, regulations in India still don’t permit flights over crowds and urban areas, placing limits on where such services can be operated. Given that metropolitan areas are no-fly zones under the Digital Sky policy, the companies are expected to give a demonstration of how they hope to deliver. But given the exciting times we live in, any technical upgradation is more than welcome.