Delivery drones are autonomous UAVs which can transport the packages and other goods. These aerial vehicles, being pilotless, carry packages and deliveries to designated locations, thus reduce the human intervention up to a bare minimum.
Traditionally, road transport had been the backbone of the logistics industry. However, with the ever-increasing urbanization and the settlements becoming more congested, it is becoming hard to reach such remote areas that lack an adequate motorway network. With such apparent setbacks of the traditional methods, the delivery drone industry is experiencing exponential growth and increased adoption in warehousing, logistics, and delivery.
Lately, many e-commerce giants have been testing out these autonomous, unmanned aerial vehicles, to discover and explore the various aspects of the delivery drone system and capitalize on their benefits for all aspects of their logistics. These unmanned vehicles enable faster pickup from the warehouse, and quicker delivery to customers. They allow companies to reduce their reliance on human capital, thus making it an ideal alternative for e-commerce vendors. With this, the drone transportation and logistics industry is projected to exhibit a CAGR of 38.5% and is likely to reach US$ 3,802.5 million by 2027.
The Worldwide View
Several countries across the world have been thoroughly exploring the opportunities and concerns associated with the commercial use of these aerial vehicles, being operated with and without a human operator. With many companies testing drones in logistics, the industry is witnessing a surge in the freight usage of drones, thus paving way for aerial delivery of light to heavy goods in a secured manner. Recently in San Francisco, a leading international network of fresh produce growers and distributors collaborated with a commercial aviation company. This joint launch allowed the company to solve the major delivery and supply chain challenges associated with the fresh produce industry. The pilot launch witnessed the delivery of fresh ripe peach from the farm to the grocery stores, within 24 hours of the harvest. The test helped in reducing the touchdown time between the farmer and the consumer. The inventions are not only restricted to this but delivery drones are coming in all sizes and shapes too, with cargo air vehicles having the capacity to carry payloads of up 500 pounds.
With the growing number of national authorities issuing permits for the trial of commercial use of drones, Aviation Administrations and Institutions are launching exploratory operations and research to discover and explore the various aspects of the delivery drone system. Countries like Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, and Iceland are preparing for such trials as the authorities ease up on the policies and allow firms to conduct trials at certain times.
As these aerial vehicles open up several opportunities for commercial applications, India has been working towards establishing a leading drone ecosystem in the nation. To tap into these opportunities, India has regularly been upgrading and evolving its policy frameworks, trying to create a digital infrastructure to support secure and efficient access to the Indian airspace by millions of UAVs. The country’s modified drone regulations, under Drone Regulations 1.0, eased the commercial application of drone technologies to an extent, keeping in mind the appropriate safeguards and permits.
As the country eased the ban on the use of drones and ended a long period of ambiguity, the Government of India introduced the Civil Aviation Requirements for such remotely piloted aircrafts systems (CAR 1.0). The platform, namely the ‘DigitalSky Platform’, made the provision for an all-digital-process to register, operate, and monitor drones in India. It is an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system which facilitates licensing and registration of drones and their operators, in an all-digital process. The platform provides instant clearance to operators before flying, thereby introducing the ‘No Permission, No Takeoff’ Policy wherein, the drone pilots are required to request a digital permit before every flight, via the online platform.
The recently launched guidelines of the draft note for Drone Regulations 2.0 were made public by the Union Civil Aviation Ministry of India. The guidelines focused majorly on the Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) and expanded the potential for commercial use of drones. Further, the policy recommends expanding operations beyond Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) and above the current height limit of 400 feet.
The ease of regulations has opened up the skies for drones in India. These landmark decisions have paved the way for wider application of drone technology in the country. It stirs excitement for new market opportunities as Indian companies increasingly turn to drone-based solutions. With this, the startups in India are exploring the umpteen opportunities the market is to present and evaluate the scope of the ever-widening industry.