Will DGCA’s New Policy Make Drone-Based Delivery A Reality In India

Lately, drones in India have gained tremendous traction, marking its presence in a lot of verticals — whether its videography, security surveillance or quirky events like drone racing. Drone technology has been around for decades now, and with time, this technology is just getting better. 

However, there was a time when there were no specific laws or protocols to follow for flying a drone in India — it was not even clear whether drones were legal or illegal. Also, it was not only creating a lot of trouble for the government authorities but also for the drone owners. The reason was somewhat obvious — the nation’s security concerns.

In order to create a drone ecosystem, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Indian governmental regulatory body for civil aviation under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, decided to release a draft to legalize drone with laws, and on 1 December 2018, the new laws were rolled out.

Today, even though DGCA  was already late to the party, with the laws coming into the scenario, the uses of drones in India have also expanded. From agricultural drones that are used to spray pesticides on the fields to drones that are used to transport human organs for emergency medical services in India, these unmanned aerial vehicles are becoming a vital part of our day to day lives.

That is not all, according to a source, the global market size of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) is expected to reach $21.47 billion by 20121, while the value of this market in India is prophesied to reach $885.7 million by 2021.

Drone Policy 2.0

A couple of years back, e-commerce giant Amazon once filed a patent for the use of drones in India for delivering e-commerce packages, and in response to that Indian Civil Aviation Ministry announced that it would soon be a reality to witness the use of drones for such purposes.

And now, it seems to be one more step closer. In January this year, the Indian Govt. unveiled Drone policy 2.0, proposing permit to fly drones beyond the visual line of sight. It would also allow delivery of goods by drones, paving the way for commercial applications in the field.

Now recently, in order to pave a way for requirements to enable Beyond visual line of sight  (BVLOS) operations in the future and make drone delivery a reality in India, DGCA has invited experts to conduct experiments in the use of drones. The prime motive behind this initiative is to conduct experiments for Beyond visual line of sight  (BVLOS) of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) under the controlled condition for a period of at least 2 months.

If in case you don’t know about BVLOS, it is currently one of the most talked about concepts — not only in India but across the globe. BVLOS allows a drone to fly beyond the visual line of sight of the operator. Meaning, drones would be able to fly with no pilot needed for take-off or landing.

Furthermore, during the experiments, the experts conducting experiments will collect evidence, prepare safety case and submit Proof of Concept (PoC) to DGCA. Each consortia is supposed to run experiment under a project coordinator who must be a citizen of India and must possess at least 2 years of experience in RPAS operations as a drone pilot, manufacturer or operator. Talking about the approval of PoC, DGCA has set a 100 hours of flight time of experimental flight.

Wrapping Up

This initiative by DGCA to fly drones Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) seems to be the next big wave in the world of e-commerce. Over the years, many companies across the world have been trying to make this happen and India recently has joined the party. And if experiments to go successful, then there is no doubt that commercial drone applications would benefit, but it would be a revolutionary step by the nation in the drone ecosystem.

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