Food delivery by drones in India is quite sometime away despite the DGCA’s nod to aggregators like Zomato and Swiggy for trials. The Centre has notified draft rules prohibiting “carriage of payload” as well as “dropping of articles” by unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation notified the draft rules, known as Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2020, on June 2 for importing, manufacturing and owning drones as well as for drone ports, or airports for drones. It has invited comments from stakeholders within 30 days, following which the rules will be finalised.
The draft rules by the Centre come 18 months after it mandated that drone owners will have to get their equipment registered with the DGCA and allowed their use within the visual range.
Rule number 36 and 38 in the Ministry’s draft state that no unmanned aircraft shall carry any payload, unless specified by the Director General of DGCA. Neither shall a person “drop or project or cause or permit to be dropped or projected from a UAS (unmanned aircraft system) in motion anything,” except when specified.
Permission for trials
The rules come at a time the DGCA has permitted food startups like Zomato and Swiggy to conduct trials for drones beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS). As many as 13 consortia, including SpiceJet, have received permissions from the aviation safety watchdog to conduct trials. A DGCA official explained that trials for these 13 companies could take up to six months to conclude. Each of these companies will then submit a report to the DGCA, which will then examine the feasibility of remote operations of drones.
An official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, too, said that a separate set of rules which will enable use of drones for e-commerce or delivering medical supplies may take at least a year. This time-frame may be too optimistic, as regulatory clearances are slow and tardy.
It was way back in August 2018, at a press conference to announce rules for commercial use of drones, that the then Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha had spoken of of starting trials for VLOS operations. Now, nearly two years later, the trials are yet to conclude.