Food delivery by drones: Tech still being tested, rules waiting to evolve

Food-tech platform Zomato took a step in this direction earlier this month, when it tested a drone for delivery of food items. Prevalent norms in India, however, prohibit payload carriage on UAVs.

Among the projected uses for drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), a key one is the delivery of items such as food and goods purchased online. Food-tech platform Zomato took a step in that direction earlier this month, when it tested a drone for delivery of food items. Prevalent norms in India, however, prohibit payload carriage on UAVs.

What are the rules that prohibit delivery via drones?

The guidelines were declared by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in August last year after two years of deliberations. Before working on these rules, the DGCA had put a blanket ban on drone operations following a Mumbai-based pizza chain using one for food delivery in 2014. Besides restricting payload carriage, the rules also prohibit drone operations outside the visual line of sight.

What technology did Zomato use?

It flew a hybrid drone with fixed wings as well as rotors. Fixed wings allow forward motion like an aeroplane while rotors allow vertical takeoff and landing. Developed by TechEagle Innovations, which was acquired by Zomato last year, the drone covered 5 km in about 10 minutes with a peak speed of 80 km per hour, and carrying a payload of 5kg.

Inbuilt sensors and a computer on board allow the drone to sense and avoid static and dynamic objects, Zomato said. Although fully automated, each drone was currently being tested with remote pilot supervision. Zomato said that over time, as it collects more data, it might do away with pilot supervision.

Among the projected uses for drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), a key one is the delivery of items such as food and goods purchased online. Food-tech platform Zomato took a step in that direction earlier this month, when it tested a drone for delivery of food items. Prevalent norms in India, however, prohibit payload carriage on UAVs.

The guidelines were declared by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in August last year after two years of deliberations. Before working on these rules, the DGCA had put a blanket ban on drone operations following a Mumbai-based pizza chain using one for food delivery in 2014. Besides restricting payload carriage, the rules also prohibit drone operations outside the visual line of sight.Advertising

While announcing the rules last year, the government had said these will be evolved with time as and when companies exhibit newer technologies. Last month, the DGCA invited expressions of interest for experiments with UAVs flying beyond the visual line of sight. Zomato has now said it is forming a consortium for such operations.

Why drones for food delivery?

Saving time is the main objective; a motorcycle delivery from Zomato takes an average 30.5 minutes. “The only possible way to reduce the average 30.5 minutes to 15 minutes is to take the aerial route – roads are not efficient for very fast delivery. We have been working towards building sustainable and safe delivery technology and with our first successful test, food delivery by drones is no longer just a pipe dream. While regulatory hurdles are not trivial, and the government’s concerns need to be looked at from various (valid) points of view, the tech is ready to fly and I am confident that drone delivery will be commonplace sooner rather than later,” said Deepinder Goyal, founder & CEO, Zomato.

Source :- https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/food-delivery-by-drones-tech-still-being-tested-rules-waiting-to-evolve-zomato-5791484/

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