Thursday, June 04, 2020

DGCA nod clears runway for the Dawn of Drone age

Bengaluru: Delivery startups Dunzo, Swiggy and Zomato, budget airline SpiceJet and Reliance-backed drone startup Asteria Aerospace are among 13 consortia that have received approvals to test fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drones.
India’s civil aviation regulator has given the go-ahead a little over a year after the country announced plans to allow experimental long-range drone flights before framing a policy for the sector. The tests, which will see the unmanned vehicles either carry payloads or survey vast swathes of land, are likely to begin in the first week of July. This will mark the first steps in India’s plan to develop local drone-based services capabilities, even as it plays catch up with China and the US.
“We will start flying from the first week of July and plan to clock around 120 hours of flights in two and a half months,” said Nagendran Kandasamy, founder and director of Throttle Aerospace, which received approval from the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation in March along with Dunzo.
While the firm initially planned to begin tests much sooner, the virus outbreak induced lockdown pushed back its plans, Kandasamy said. The disruption caused by the pandemic also delayed the DGCA’s approval to end-May for 11 of the 13 consortia that were shortlisted.
The private industry consortia will need to clock at least 100 hours of flight time in airspace designated by the Airports Authority of India, by September 30. The logs will need to be submitted to the DGCA, which is hoping to use data from the experiments to frame a policy for BVLOS drones before year-end.
“Once they (the consortia) complete their flights and submit their logs, then we can really understand what will need to be the specifications required for BVLOS,” said a senior government official who did not want to be named. “Our plan was to have the draft policy out by August, but that got pushed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
04/05/20 Alnoor Peermohamed/Economic Times

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