E-commerce players like Amazon and Flipkart will be able to make airborne delivery of products to customers in India using drones enabled by technology being developed by the country's aviation sector, a minister announced on Thursday.
"E-commerce deliveries using drones are certainly going to be possible in India. Companies like Amazon and Flipkart can deliver products with the technological developments we are seeing in the aviation ecosystem," Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said at the Aero Expo 2017 in New Delhi organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Wednesday invited public comments on the draft rules on use of drones, including for commercial purposes, which the aviation regulator hopes to finalise by the year-end. Drones have been classified under five categories based on their weight. Sinha added,
"Aviation is at the cutting edge of technology be it in avionics, software...throwing open the drone industry to experimentation and innovation will really benefit India."
Noting the various uses of drone technology in areas like oil and gas prospecting, agriculture and in taking pictures, Sinha said use of drones as "air rickshaws" for travelling around a 100-km radius could be a viable proposition.
A few years ago, a drone had been used to deliver a packet to a location at a multi-storied building in Mumbai. The local police, however, described it as an unauthorised flight in violation of rules.
Noting that this government had brought in the National Civil Aviation Policy, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said that the sector had notched up 20 crore passenger trips this year, which exceeded the Railways' 13 crore passengers in their upper class coaches.
"Our journey, however, has only begun because only 3 percent of Indians actually fly. With our efforts to increase connectivity, we are aiming at 30-40 percent," the minister added.
Vice President Venkaiah Naidu was among the chief guests at the event and released a knowledge paper on the sector.