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Like Uber, You Can Book A Drone Soon

Last updated on: April 25, 2023 09:31 IST

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

E-commerce players may soon rent out drones, so you can use them the way you book a cab on an app, and test viable use-cases for last-mile delivery.

This means that bootstrapped drone manufacturers will find ready-made use-cases for their machines rather than having to develop the market from scratch.

The government's tech piloting agency, Ease of Doing Business, is finalising details for a mega commercial pilot project, which is looking at inviting 16 players (individual companies or consortiums) across various locations in the country to offer drones-as-a-service in a public-private partnership mode for a tenure of 12 months.

Ease of Doing Business has identified four broad use-cases for commercialisation -- e-commerce delivery, use in agriculture, mapping and survey, logistics, surveillance and SOS rescue.

The details of the drone commercial pilot will be announced next month.

Each player has to start with a minimum of 10 drones and will be chosen on the basis of their use-case and a techno-commercial evaluation.

Says Abhijeet Sinha, programme director, EODB, "As many as 16 ministries have already shown an interest in taking up the project in consortium with private drone manufacturers and operators.

"Numerous public sector undertakings from coal, oil, defence, transport, police and railways have also evinced interest in the project.

"Under the policy, they will be given first preference to participate in the project, followed by the private sector as well as FDI investors."

They have to apply once the scheme opens.

The move to test commercially viable use-cases is closely linked with the government's production linked incentive scheme for drones which has earmarked Rs 120 crore (Rs 1.2 billion) for incentives in three years.

The government has already identified 12 drone manufacturers and 11 drone component manufacturers for the project.

The plan is to complete the chain by ensuring that these manufacturers already have commercially viable use-cases for drones through the EODB project.

Says Ambar Dubey, former joint secretary in the ministry of civil aviation who spearheaded the drone policy: "The drone Ease of Doing Business project is timely and much needed. It will help the nascent drone industry, especially the innovative but bootstrapped start-ups, to make full use of the liberalised drone rules and the PLI scheme."

Those who meet the criteria for being eligible for the commercial pilot will get single-window clearances from the ministry of civil aviation for all licenses and permissions required to use drones.

States who have shown an interest in running the commercial pilots are expected to provide some subsidy on the rentals to make it more affordable for users.

The key in selling drones as a service is to establish viable rentals which are acceptable to consumers as well as the service operators.

Once the pilot is successful, Ease of Doing Business will hand over the project to the host state which can scale it up to the next level, and NITI Aayog will prepare the policy framework.

Ease of Doing Business is targeting around 25 per cent of the global share of drone revenues (manufacturing and services).

It expects that once the PPP model goes fully commercial, the project will generate revenues of around Rs 700 crore/Rs 7 billion (drone manufacturing is targeted to hit a revenue of Rs 400 crore/Rs 4 billion by FY24) annually.

It is projected that drone revenues in India will hit $10 billion by 2027.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

Surajeet Das Gupta
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