Saturday, October 16, 2021

Drones are set to soar in the sky as govt provides the ideal launchpad

If you have been hesitating ordering food from your favourite restaurant that is quite a distance from your house because you are worried that the food will go cold and tepid by the time it is delivered at your doorstep, you have cause for cheer. In a few months you may be able to place that order on your preferred food delivery app without having to worry about how long it will take for the food to be delivered.

Restaurant aggregators and food delivery apps Zomato and Swiggy are among the companies testing out using drones for delivering food, medicines and essential items. That a drone will drop off your order at your house may still be some time away, but having that mouth-watering dish while sitting at home, from the restaurant that you used to drive to once in a while will become a possibility sooner than you know.

A drone may pick up your order, take it to a centrally located drone pod and within the next 10-15 minutes, a delivery agent may ring your doorbell with your order, still fresh and warm. Not just food, delivery of medicines and other essentials through the app that you order may also become a reality shortly.

This is not a world of fantasy, but a real-world situation that is emerging thanks to the Government of India announcing a new set of drone rules in August, in the process repealing its own rules issued just a few months earlier.

According to Smit Shah, Director, Drone Federation of India, an industry body, the Government’s approach is most pragmatic and industry-friendly. The new rules put India on a par with other countries as far as regulation goes. It is now up to the industry to make use of the opportunity. He says the drone industry will now be treated like any other industry – say, automobiles – where there are clear guidelines on what can be done and what rules need to be followed, which is a significant change from when the drones industry was heavily regulated and viewed with suspicion.

In March 2021 when the Government announced the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rules, the feedback was that the rules were restrictive in nature and had been framed with the dangers of rogue drone attacks in mind. It was pointed out that these rules would not help foster innovation and growth of the industry and that no amount of regulation can prevent rogue drone attacks.

The Government’s fears of rogue drone attacks seem to have come true when there were two drone-driven blasts at Indian Air Force’s technical airport in Jammu in June.

16/10/21 N Ramakrishnan/CNBC TV18

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