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Drone Delivered: Beyond visual range test flights to commence soon

BY ROHIT VAID   |  New Delhi

04-January-2020

 India will soon conduct 'Beyond Visual Line of Sight' (BVLOS) test flights of drone systems for the creation of last mile air delivery connectivity in the country.

The move, according to industry insiders, is seen as a major breakthrough for the evolution of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems' (UAS) eco-system in India.

The objective of the experimental BVLOS flights in controlled conditions for a period of at least two months is to prepare a 'Proof of Concept' for safe operations.

If successful, and found safe, a new policy framework for the long-range BVLOS drone operations will be drafted.

The initial step of allowing long-range test flights is expected to pave the way for UAS to delivery medicines and other articles, such as food items, in a faster manner across the country.

Besides, these systems can become life savers in the rural and far flung areas to deliver first aid and other essentials.

Other opportunities arising from BVLOS UAS operations at low altitudes are expected to provide cost-effective services such as surveying, photography and precision agriculture.

The BVLOS experiments will be conducted in various airspaces across the country which have been identified by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

These experiments will be conducted by selected consortium using different types of 'Remotely Piloted Aircraft System' models.

Consequently, the results of the long-range test flights will be assessed by the BVLOS Experiment Assessment & Monitoring committee.

"The upper limit of the identified airspace is 400 ft AGL. These experiments are likely to start from end of January," a senior DGAC official told IANS.

Earlier, the regulator had invited an EoI for conducting experimental BVLOS operation in the low risk areas. It then received 34 proposals as a response to the EoI.

"Our BVLOS Experiment Assessment & Monitoring committee has approved the proposals of the two consortia," the official said.

"These consortia include sector-specific experts, service providers and some non-aviation companies that intend to use UAS for delivery purposes. Each party in the consortium has a defined role. The necessary clearances for these two consortium are under progress," the official added.

Industry insiders revealed that the consortium of Throttle Aerospace Systems and Dunzo Air has been selected to carry out the test flights.

Throttle Aerospace Systems (TAS) is an aerospace and defence company based out of Bengaluru.

The development comes after regulations were introduced for the civilian use of UAS in 2018. These enabled visual line-of-sight, daytime-only and a maximum of 400-feet altitude drone operations.

The framework mandates users to register on an online portal -- Digital Sky -- which acts as the national unmanned traffic management system for remotely piloted aircraft.

Users are required to make one-time registration of their drones, pilots and owners on the platform, which will also allow for online filing of a drone's specific flight path and use. IANS