If Drone Policy 2.0 draft is implemented, India will witness drone corridors and droneports
India and its enormous topography pose a considerable challenge for efficient last-mile transportation and delivery. With the usage of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) also known as delivery drones or drones for e-commerce deliveries and other logistics-related services, various unprecedented areas could be accessed efficiently making the same-day and the next-day delivery across the country feasible.
Fuelling this vision further, the Civil Aviation Ministry has recently proposed a draft on Drone Policy 2.0 as an extension on its earlier Drone Policy 1.0 which is seen as a relief from the stringent drone laws in India. Although at a nascent stage, the draft, if implemented for commercial purposes, can metaphorically change the delivery system in the country.
There is no denying the fact that even e-commerce giants in India are facing trouble accessing the most far-flung, hard to traverse areas, making the last-mile delivery barely possible. Further, the cost of transportation of goods to remote areas discourages service providers to move beyond their comfort zones of popular cities/towns.
If the Government plans to introduce UAVs in Indian airspace for commercial businesses, unexplored areas can be tapped as potential markets by bringing down the cost of transportation. It is also speculated that Drone Policy 2.0 will foster new forms of air freight capabilities positively, allowing transport of temperature and time-sensitive commodities like human body organs, life-saving medicines or safe blood movement for transfusion. Imagine creating a green corridor without disrupting roadways traffic or sending time-sensitive goods across the country in times of urgency.
By using drone transport to deliver goods, even the remotest and rural areas will become instantly accessible and connected. Drones are unmanned and will operate in empty spaces in the air without traffic to disturb its speed and efficiency and thus can be best alternatives to using automobiles, trucks, and trains. Further, with the cost of deliveries in rural areas estimated to be three times higher than in urban areas, using drones at scale can help equalize economic opportunity and access to affordable consumer goods between regions by bringing down the cost of rural logistics. Similarly, in tier 1 and tier 2 cities, this is also likely to help service providers such as food delivery companies in limiting their liability on manpower and time constraint.
Along with the night-time operations allowance, the draft envisions segregated airspace solely for flying drones, distinct from the airspace in which manned aircraft operate, and could accommodate all drone flights taking place beyond the visual line of sight. Unlike the present policy, the draft mentions about the drone operations beyond visual line-of-sight and beyond the previously stipulated 400 feet, preventing collision and invasion of space between manned and unmanned aircraft. The regulations, if materializes can vastly expand the number of commercial applications and can make impractical routes practical.
Creation of Droneports
With an aim to organise and streamline the unmanned aircraft functioning in the country, the DGCA is also planning to create droneports i.e designated areas for take-off and landing of UAVs. Over time their capabilities may be enhanced to function as distribution centres, cargo holds, and battery charging stations or for any other appropriate use. The move will not only avert risks of accidents but also prevent congestion in the airspace making the entire process smooth and speed-driven. The usage of drones can be seen as part of a larger smart logistics initiative, bringing people, places and goods closer together, faster and more conveniently.
With this policy, the Government is aiming to align itself with the best international practices so as to establish India as a technological hub for usage of UAVs / drones in varied applications. If implemented for commercial purposes, UAVs could open up an array of opportunities for service providers and satisfaction to its end-users. As of now, we can only hope that this draft sees the light of the day.