In the next step towards permitting private firms to operate drones, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has allowed five consortiums to conduct their trials or experiments. These are long-range drones under the category beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drones. To understand their usage, these drones are useful in reaching medical aid to inaccessible locations like hilly terrain much faster than by any other means. These may still be meant for B2B operations.
Among the five shortlisted are ShopX, a company floated by Nandan Nilekani and SpiceXpress, a subsidiary of SpiceJet, the airline company. Dunzo and drone startup Throttle Aerospace are the other two companies allowed to conduct their experiments. These experiments will be monitored by the representatives of DGCA and based on the data collected, the final licences may be issued to them for beginning their operations. That process may still be months away.
It is learnt that at this preliminary stage in the industry, the DGCA may itself own the responsibility to conduct the experiments since there are not enough trained and skilled manpower in the country to handle them. Even if the machines are cleared after the experiments, there is a necessity to have trained pilots to operate the drones remotely. Only if there are trained pilots, the licence to operate the drones will be issued.
The operators are hopeful that their drones will be airborne in the next 1½ years. Though the government approval time is not mentioned, they may be hoping that the government itself is keen to get the drones in the air as soon as possible.