Drones have finally inched closer to commercialization in India this year. The country’s ‘Drone Regulations 2.0’ policy is considered a landmark in federal regulations for the drone industry. From taxis to delivery vehicles, the latest policy paves the way for a range of drone applications that can integrate into existing airspace. The regulations are scheduled to go into effect in March 2019.
While delivery of critical supplies such as blood plasma has been around for a while in many countries, the second tier of delivery – consumer goods – is further off. In India as with many countries, the technology has outpaced regulations that would allow implementation (see our other articles about India drone regulations here.)
Drone Delivery as a segment is increasingly important, both for critical goods such as medical supplies and for consumer goods by major providers such as Amazon here, and Google here. One of the first efforts towards using drones for commercial deliveries is being made by Zomato (Zomato India Pvt. Ltd), which recently acquired a Lucknow-based start-up TechEagle Innovations. Zomato is an Indian restaurant search service, founded in 2008 and currently operating in 24 countries. Zomato provides restaurant menus, reviews, and information about restaurants of all kinds. A robust restaurant database and drone delivery combination could lead to a game changer in the world of takeout.
We caught up with Anshu Abhishek, who is in charge of drone applications for TechEagle to ask him about it.
DroneLife: Can you tell our readers a little about TechEagle? How did you get started?
Anshu Abhishek: TechEagle is a drone tech start-up founded by Vikram Singh Meena. He ‘s been working on various type of drones since 2015 in the garage of IIT Kanpur Hostel. TechEagle was a B2B tech startup which provided custom drone development (from designing to manufacturing) to other businesses.
The last mile delivery industry is a massive market, estimated to be worth more than $1 trillion worldwide, affecting a wide range of business sectors from e-commerce, online food ordering and health to manufacturing and high-tech.
I noticed a huge opportunity and multiple use cases for its development worldwide, so I started working towards cementing my skills & ideas around developing unmanned aerial vehicles for delivery. I fueled the idea with all of my savings and bootstrapped the startup.
DroneLife: India is such a large country both by geography and by population – what areas do you see getting drone delivery first?
Anshu Abhishek: Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities will see the delivery via drone first, be it food, e-commerce or medicine.
DroneLife: Elsewhere in the world, drone delivery for critical supplies such as blood or medical supplies seems to be moving forward the fastest. Is this also true in India?
Anshu Abhishek: Yes. And India is also focused on moving fast in drone tech. Even on the regulations front, India is planning to lead the world.
DroneLife: How long would you estimate that it will be before real drone delivery comes to India?
Anshu Abhishek: Real drone delivery tech is already been developed in India, and it is set to launch as soon as regulations are in place.
DroneLife: What are the special challenges that running a drone delivery company in India brings to bear?
Anshu Abhishek: Three things: One challenge is always on regulations front. Second, this is very new industry so finding skilled team members is bit difficult. Third, it requires huge infrastructure to setup a delivery company, which leads to higher costs – but in drone industry, we have seen less investment so far.
DroneLife: How will the recently released Drone Regulations 1.0 change the game?
Anshu Abhishek: Drone Regulations 1.0, legalizing flying drones, has proved to be a significant milestone. We’re confident that the 2.0 draft will see the inclusion automated drones for commercial delivery of products as well. These changes will facilitate the ease of doing business and help create a robust ecosystem for the future of drones and food delivery.
DroneLife: Tell us how you work with collaborators? Tell us about your deal with Zomato. Will you still be operating the drones yourself?
Anshu Abhishek: We will now be solely working towards building a drone delivery network for Zomato. Our first job right now is to devise hub-to-hub delivery networks and design multi-rotor drones that can pick up a payload of under 5 kg. Our drone innovations will be backed by the reach and in-depth data knowledge Zomato has with its food delivery operations in ~100 cities in India.
DroneLife: What challenges have you faced throughout your journey?
Anshu Abhishek: I think the biggest challenge and the most significant factor were the government regulations. Now with them in favor of drone development, I am confident that in the future we will be able to deliver food directly to the users via drones. Other than this all the challenges are very common for every startup like funds, skilled manpower and mentoring.
DroneLife: What do you think is the future of this industry? We haven’t seen many players in this sector but will there be a boom soon?
Anshu Abhishek: While we are at a very nascent stage of drone innovation, we think drones will be an integral part of our lives be it delivery, security, 3D Mapping, cinematography, precision agriculture, human transportation etc. So future is very bright as all the stakeholders are coming together to build the strong ecosystem in India.
There were no regulations for drone industry so the investment was very minimal but now the regulations are in place so the drone industry will see a boom. Drones powering the last mile delivery is an inevitable part of the future whether it is food delivery or e-commerce and we will continue working towards building the better future.