Besides aircraft, passenger drones, helicopters, turboprops and seaplanes will help the government achieve its ambitious goal
Passenger drones, among other forms of flying machines, will play a large part in achieving the government’s goal of a billion passenger air trips a year, minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha has said.
He said a billion passenger trips in the near future will come not only from present-day narrow-bodied and wide-bodied aircraft but from greater use of passenger drones, helicopters, turboprops and seaplanes.
Sinha spoke on Wednesday at a conclave held by the All India Management Association.
The government seems to be taking a cue from the growing buzz around personalised flights on passenger drones and global cab aggregator Uber announcing its ‘Elevate’ programme that envisions flying taxis.
Test runs are expected to start by 2020 in the US and Dubai.
However, his comment comes when scores of scheduled flights on A320 aircraft have been cancelled by major aviation players IndiGo and GoAir over the past two days, after instances of engine malfunction.
Thousands of passengers have been stranded, with 50 flights cancelled by the airlines on Wednesday, slightly down from about 70 on Tuesday.
“No other regulator has been following the neo engines as closely as we and we are the first ones globally to actually fully ground these,” Sinha said.
Total passenger air trips in India doubled from about 100 million in 2014 to 200 million in 2017, Sinha said.
“Not many industries in India can legitimately claim they can increase volumes five-fold. But, in the airline industry, we can say with a high degree of confidence that we can do so over the next 15 or 20 years.”
Only about 5 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion-population uses airlines.
Growth in volume terms is 16-18 per cent a year.
In comparison, the US has 900 million passenger trips a year for a population of about 330 million.
China, on the other hand, clocks around 500-600 million passenger trips with a growth of about 9-10 per cent.
Sinha said the aviation sector has achieved parity with its main competitor, the railways, on pricing, number of trips and revenue.
“The total revenue of the Indian Railways is roughly about Rs 2 trillion. It’s the same for the telecom industry as well,” he said.
Photograph: Neil Chatterjee/Reuters