Consortiums led by these two firms have been the first to get the Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) approval to conduct experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations of remotely piloted aircraft, or drones.
A senior government official confirmed to ET that the two consortiums had received the DGCA’s approval. ET has also seen copies of the official letters of approval shared with the two companies.
“They need another Ministry of Civil Aviation approval, which may take about 7-10 days since it needs to be approved at the level of the Minister,” the official added.
The move marks India’s first official attempt at allowing long-range drone flights, albeit at an experimental level. The country plans to use the learnings from these experimental drone operations to frame rules for BVLOS drone flights.
ET first reported on December 19 that Throttle Aerospace and Dunzo will be the likely candidates to receive the DGCA nod.
Throttle Aerospace Systems founder and director Nagendran Kandasamy told ET that the company was looking to build drone solutions for medical supply and organ transportation. The company’s soon-to-kick-off experiment too would test for use cases in the medicine delivery space.
Dunzo, on the other hand, did not confirm its approval or share any specifics of its use case to ET. People close to the firm, however, said the company was looking at the experiment as a way to get a headstart in building a drone delivery solution. The company is looking at drone technology as a differentiator between it and rivals, they said.
Apart from the two firms, the DGCA is likely to approve the applications of a further five consortiums to conduct long-range drone tests. However, restriction on travel in the light of the Covid-19 outbreak has slowed the process getting approvals.
The approvals come just days after the DGCA opened up the first six ‘green zones’ within which drone flights will be allowed to take place.
Zones of five kilometre radius have been notified in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, after the DGCA received approvals from security agencies.
The opening up of green zones will allow flights of micro drones, which weigh under 2 kg and have a unique identification number, to apply for permission to fly on India’s Digital Sky platform. This is the first instance of India’s online drone flight permission system becoming operational after it was approved in December 2018.