Why Are Drone Deliveries Taking So Long To Take Off In India?


Once a science fiction, the concept of drone delivery, in this age of rapid growth and technological advancement, has become a reality and is being gradually adopted by companies worldwide.

Currently, companies like Amazon, FedEx, DHL Parcelcopter, Wing, Uber Eats and Zipline use drone delivery. Amazon’s Prime Air program aims to deliver high-speed packages using drones, while FedEx and DHL are actively exploring drone deliveries. Alphabet subsidiary Wing has completed more than 350,000 deliveries. Uber Eats is looking into using drones for delivering food. Zipline, known for delivering medical supplies, is expanding its operations in the U.S. and the U.K.

While we see logistics giants using delivery drones to transport anything and everything to different locations in the West, the concept is still to be actualized in the Indian market, and this is even though India’s drone industry is expected to grow from a value of ₹2,900 crore in 2020, to ₹81,600 crore in 2025. Further, the industry is expected to reach ₹2.95 lakh crore by 2030.

The Initial Hype:  

The concept of delivering packaged goods through drones in the Indian market caught the eye of many industry stakeholders.

As India is a promising market with a large and growing population that is increasingly embracing e-commerce, companies could see the potential to revolutionize deliveries and capitalize on this new concept.

The New Drone Rules 2021, unveiled by Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, along with the mission of making India a global drone hub by 2030, further encouraged Indian drone industry stakeholders to readily set up smooth flights.

Following this, many Indian drone start-ups and logistics companies stepped up their efforts in this space. As per reports, Garuda Aerospace, a Hyderabad-based drone delivery company, has developed a fleet of drones for delivering goods to remote areas and urban centres. Companies like Shiprocket, Zomato, and Dunzo collaborated with drone manufacturers to initiate drone deliveries in the last-mile segment.

Drone delivery can be used for a variety of operations, from delivering medical supplies to remote areas to delivering food and groceries to urban centres to providing last-mile delivery for e-commerce companies and much more.

With endless potential applications, drone deliveries can help make India a more efficient, environmentally sustainable, and connected country. However, despite the clear advantages, the adoption of drone delivery in India is not as widespread as one would think.

The Roadblocks For Successful Implementation:

India faces unique challenges that hinder the growth and adoption of drone technologies.

Regulatory Hurdles: While progress has been made in drone industry regulations, there are still obstacles to address. The Indian regulatory environment for drones has strict restrictions, making it difficult to secure permissions for operations, especially in urban areas. This poses a significant challenge for companies seeking to implement large-scale drone delivery. Ensuring compliance with regulations, managing air traffic safety, and establishing robust traffic management systems are crucial for the safe and efficient operation of drone deliveries, but remain difficult to achieve.

Infrastructure Issues: India has densely populated urban areas with heterogeneous and complex terrain, which poses significant logistical challenges for drones to navigate and achieve successful delivery. Furthermore, India lacks infrastructure like landing pads, charging stations and control centres to facilitate the seamless operation of drones.  

Technological Troubles: There is a need to ensure that Indian drones are equipped with the latest features and capabilities to keep pace with technological advances. These technological solutions need to overcome significant technical hurdles. Delivering drones in India requires the development of drones that can operate in a variety of environments, carry a variety of payloads and maintain high levels of reliability. 

Cost Considerations: The initial investment in drone technology and the cost of scaling operations to meet the vast needs of the Indian market are really high. This may deter companies from fully committing to drone delivery, especially given the uncertain regulatory landscape.

Safety Concerns: Safety is the main issue when it comes to drones, especially in terms of air traffic safety and secure cargo delivery and in addition, privacy and security concerns increase with the increased use of drones. Ensuring that drones have not become surveillance tools and pose no threat to public safety is paramount. The implementation of strict safety measures, training programs for operators and the development of a comprehensive regulatory framework are essential to effectively address safety concerns in the case of drones used in India

What Does The Future Hold?

While the concept of drone deliveries is still to be actualized in India, we believe that the Indian skies might soon open for drones delivering packages to your doorstep, especially with the Government’s Drone (Amendment) Rules 2023, which aim to liberalize drone regulations and encourage innovation in this space. In the journey of making drone deliveries a reality, innovation and collaboration amongst different stakeholders (government bodies, tech companies, regulatory agencies) would be key in navigating through the obstacles and transforming the delivery space to achieve sustainable and efficient deliveries through the sky.  

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