The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has allowed 20 entities, including SpiceJet, Swiggy and Dunzo Air Consortium, to conduct Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) experimental flights of drones, it said on Wednesday.
The MoCA granted conditional exemption from Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021.
The preliminary permission grant is envisioned to assist the supplementary framework development of subsequent UAV rules pertaining to Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operations.
Permissions for Future Network of Drones
BVLOS trials will help create framework for future drone deliveries and other major applications using drones.
The Central Government had constituted the ‘BVLOS Experiment Assessment and Monitoring (BEAM) Committee’ to invite Expression of Interest (EOI) to undertake BVLOS experimental flights of drones.
An EOI notice (27046/70/2019 -AED-DGCA dated 13 May 2019) was issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for the aforementioned purpose.
The BEAM Committee evaluated the 34 EOls received and selected 20 consortia (‘Selected Consortia’) for the experimental flights.
These exemptions are subject to complete adherence to the requirements stated in the said EOI notice and the directions/ exemptions issued (or to be issued in future) by the BEAM Committee. This conditional exemption shall be valid for period of one year, or until further orders, whichever is earlier.
List of Selected Consortia for experimental BVLOS drone operations
- Aerospace Industry Development Association of Tamil Nadu (AIDAT)
- ANRA Consortium A
- ANRA Consortium B
- Asteria Aerospace Pvt. Ltd.
- AutoMicroUAS Aerotech Pvt. Ltd.
- Centillion Networks Pvt. Ltd.
- ClearSky Flight Consortium
- Dhaksha Unmanned Systems Pvt. Ltd.
- Dunzo Air Consortium
- Marut Dronetech Pvt. Ltd.
- Sagar Defence Engineering Pvt. Ltd.
- Saubika Consortium
- Skylark Drones & Swiggy
- ShopX Omnipresent Consortium
- Spicejet Ltd.
- Terradrone Consortium B
- The Consortium
- Throttle Aerospace Systems Pvt. Ltd.
- Value Thought IT Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
- Virginia Tech India
BVLOS describes operating UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and drones at distances outside the normal visible range of the pilot.
BVLOS is the second stage of testing drones and UAVs, as drones are generally operated within the visual line of sight during the first phase of testing. If the two stages are completed successfully, further clearance will be sought from the authorities to explore the possibility of vaccine delivery using drones.
The entities and companies include Aerospace Industry Development Association of Tamil Nadu (AIDAT), ANRA consortiums, Asteria Aerospace Pvt. Ltd., AutoMicroUAS Aerotech Pvt. Ltd., Centillion Networks Pvt. Ltd., ClearSky Flight Consortium, Dhaksha Unmanned Systems Pvt. Ltd., Marut Dronetech Pvt. Ltd., Sagar Defence Engineering Pvt. Ltd., Saubika Consortium, Skylark Drones & Swiggy, ShopX Omnipresent Consortium, Terradrone Consortium B, The Consortium, Throttle Aerospace Systems Pvt. Ltd., Value Thought IT Solutions Pvt. Ltd., and Virginia Tech India.
International BVLOS Push
BVLOS is much more efficient, allowing for fewer take-off and landing manoeuvres and less human interaction. Just like in India, in the US in January, the Federal Aviation Administration approved BVLOS drone operations without visual observers, so the technology and industry has been moving in that direction for some time.
In 2020, Canada granted its first two licenses for BVLOS drone flights to a partnership of companies running commercial flights over power lines, according to the Commercial Drone Professional website. Its aviation authority Transport Canada is exploring a range of drone technologies, including the development of a joined up “ecosystem” of air traffic management services for drones.
Japan has pledged to introduce a full licensing system for BVLOS drone flights by 2022. According to the Japan Times, the licenses will be restricted by age and subject to operators passing visual and written tests.
And Malaysia is among other countries trialling similar tech. Teleport, the logistics arm of the AirAsia airline, is testing an urban drone delivery service with the first commercial delivery expected at the end of this year, according to Nikkei.