Aviation regulator, the Director General of Civil Aviation
(DGCA), has started the process of making guidelines for the civil use
of drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems. The guidelines are
expected to be finalised in the next few months, and companies like Amazon and Flipkart might be able to use drones for delivery, by next year.
Drones are small aircraft systems, remotely controlled and is unmanned.
“The DGCA has restricted the use of drones in India at present, but
at the same time it has initiated the process of framing the guidelines
for operations,” a civil aviation ministry official said.
However, the use of drones is not restricted only because of
guidelines in India — the International Civil Aviation Organisation
(ICAO) also has not issued any recommendation or standards for the use
of drones for civil purposes, said the official. Last year, the DGCA had
put out a public notice restricting the civil use of drones in India.
Given that, India might still be one of the first countries to use
drones for civil purposes, as the guidelines are on a fast track. Other
civil aviation ministry officials said that issues that might compromise
safety are being looked into at this moment, and it will take a couple
of months to figure those out.
However, the use of drones are permitted in film-making, where
shooting is done using drones from a height of 200 to 400 feet. Last
year, US-based e-commerce giant Amazon was expected to start doing
trials of delivery through drones in India. Reports even mentioned that
Amazon will start delivery in the festive season of 2014, using drones,
but the current regulations don’t permit such operations. Amazon
officials were unavailable for comments.
Also, last year, a restaurant in Mumbai tested pizza delivery with a
customised drone, where a pizza weighing half a kilogram was delivered
in Lower Parel. The total time of delivery and the drone coming back was
shorter than what a delivery boy takes — 30 minutes. Drones can do
deliveries up to 8 km from the warehouse. Experts say that last-mile
deliveries from dispatch centres can be done by drones, much faster.
In China, which has also taken drones seriously, domestic e-commerce
giant Alibaba started trials of drones in February in Shanghai, Beijing
and Guangzhou. Right now, trials of light packets up to 340 grams, are
done by Taobao, a marketplace for sellers owned by Alibaba.
Amazon had showcased its drone in December of 2013 amongst a lot of
fanfare, and later patented its drone-delivery process. However, the US
Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is yet to give a go-ahead for
widespread delivery using drones. Amazon’s efforts so far to convince
FAA has not borne any results.
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