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Updated on: Thursday, December 30, 2021, 02:31 PM IST

Year-ender 2021: Drone delivery startups take flight; large-scale usage likely in 2022

From military surveillance to aerial cinematography, the concept of drone delivery has radically shifted to delivering life essentials such as medicines, groceries, vaccines and other products/ Representational image | Photo credit: PTI

From military surveillance to aerial cinematography, the concept of drone delivery has radically shifted to delivering life essentials such as medicines, groceries, vaccines and other products/ Representational image | Photo credit: PTI

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Ever wondered if technology will succeed in bringing life to things that were once hard to picture? The concept of flying delivery or robots delivering a package has become a common option in the technological world.

Drones popular in logistics operations

Drones, also known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are becoming increasingly popular in logistics operations. From military surveillance to aerial cinematography, the concept of drone delivery has radically shifted to delivering life essentials such as medicines, groceries, vaccines and other products. This delivery option is gaining widespread importance in ensuring last-mile delivery with accuracy, environment-friendly and low-operating cost.

Recently, on-demand drone delivery startup has been able to conduct India’s first life saving drugs delivery via Hybrid e-VTOL Drone in collaboration with the Government of Meghalaya which aimed at improving the emergency and regular medical supply chain for hard-to-reach populations.

Initially, drones were used by military or police personnel, primarily for surveillance to monitor targeted aerial attacks. As the world is moving towards digitization, the usage of drone technology has evolved to carry out complex tasks and operations across industries including agriculture for checking the health of crops, surveillance for mining, delivering packages for e-commerce and many among others, giving a solid push to its widespread adoption in India.

According to market statistics – the global drone market will touch $28.47 billion this year which is currently dominated by the US, China and Israel and India will comprise about 4.25 percent of that, with expectations to reach $1.21 billion in 2021.

Major implications

Drone delivery has captured the logistics market with intent to offer an innovative yet cost-effective solution to problems associated with conventional delivery options.

According to a report shared by UNICEF, drones in healthcare can be used for transporting medical equipment and vaccines, Blood, Blood components, aerial spraying and public space monitoring.

Liberalized and regulated drone policy

Considering the immense potential of drones, the Government of India has liberalized the drone policy to regulate the use and operation of drones or UAS in the country. The idea of drafting the policy is to create a digital sky platform for the management of various drone-related activities in India. By facilitating a single-window online system, most of the drone permissions can be self-generated without human intervention.

As the process of initiating drone delivery in India has become more sophisticated, owning or possessing, leasing, operating, transferring or maintaining a drone has also become easier. This has given great support to India’s drone delivery startups to disrupt the market and revolutionize commercial and retail logistics.

Last-mile delivery

Drones have become one of the most preferred options for last-mile and mid-mile delivery. With a concentration of medical facilities, drone delivery improves the emergency and regular medical supply chain for hard-to-reach populations. Furthermore, many areas that have mobility restrictions due to underdeveloped infrastructure or COVID-19 limitations have benefited from drone delivery.

For instance, during the second wave of COVID-19, drones facilitated the delivery of food, medicines and other essential goods to people lacking access to daily or medical essentials.

As a result, worldwide many on-demand drone delivery startups are taking leverage of the endless opportunities that COVID-19 has presented to improve the logistics segment.

Potential of technology

On-demand drone delivery startups are leveraging the potential of technology and becoming the backbone of the logistics industry. Their objectives to manufacture the drones are aligned with Make in India, Made for the World to become global players in the drone delivery sector. These players are focusing on VTOL Drone - Vertical Take-Off & Landing Vehicle that takes off vertically like a helicopter.

It converts itself automatically into fixed-wing (i.e. passenger aircraft) mode for travelling larger distances with greater speed and when it reaches the delivery locations, converts itself back to helicopter mode to land in a very small area of 5m*5m. This particular drone technology is built for precision, robustness and reliable delivery operations. Furthermore, it augments supply chain management and supports last-mile access even in hilly terrains contributing to the burgeoning demand for on-demand drone delivery startups.

What’s next?

Drone delivery is still at a nascent stage. However, its benefits in faster delivery using shorter and direct routes make the country witness widespread usage of drones. Given the endless possibilities of drone delivery in the logistics sector, it is predicted that the upcoming year will see an uptick curve in the large-scale usage of drone delivery options.

(Vikram Singh, CEO & Founder of TechEagle-Drone delivery company based in Gurgaon, India)

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Published on: Thursday, December 30, 2021, 02:31 PM IST
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