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India’s civil aviation ministry prohibits use of drones to deliver food
Wednesday, 29 August, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
The ministry of civil aviation, Government of India, has made regulations for the operation of drones (unmanned aircraft) in India that will allow the commercial application of various drone technologies in India. In a statement, it said that India had formulated an all-digital process to smoothen the operation of such drones. However, food delivery is still a distant dream.

“The use of drones will be permitted in sectors like agriculture, health and disaster relief, under new regulations which shall come into force from December 1, but the delivery of payload, including food items, will not be permitted as of now,” the ministry added.

There are reports of some firms opting for the delivery of food through drones. In the United States, Uber has decided to test food delivery through drones, while in China, Alibaba’s meal arm was reportedly cleared to deliver food through drones over Shanghai.

However, food business operators (FBOs) in India were cautious about the food delivery service through drones, and opined that it would need time before the application of this technology to deliver the food safely was perfected.

“Delivering food through drones is a very unique and a novel concept. It is cost-effective, delivery is on time and the customer gets a very tech-savvy experience. However, drones can have a flip side too, as they can't carry too much weight in one go, and if there is any technical failure, there is no one to take care of it,” said Ravneet Tuteja, owner of 501 Kitchen, a Noida-based delivery chain.

Another restaurateur, Zoheb Vijray of Gurgaon-based delivery kitchen, Chadha Aunty and Sons, said, “As a delivery kitchen ourselves, it would be a milestone event in the history of the delivery service. Its functionality is something that we can take forward and discuss as a delivery kitchen community, but it definitely comes to us as a surprise.”

He opined that the government should allow food delivery through drones. He added, “The government should pass the motion, and if this is in place in the estimated time, it will be a boon for us in every sense. The delivery speed will reach its peak and the patrons won’t have to wait for their food being stuck in traffic. Automation will be replacing our old cycle, that requires a lot of effort and time.”

“While drones can be used for agricultural purposes, they cannot be used for spraying pesticides until specifically cleared,” said the government. Further, the carriage of explosives, animals and human payload are not allowed.

Meanwhile, civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu stated, “Based on the traffic system, the Digital Sky Platform is the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform that implements no permission, no take-off (NPNT). Users will be required to do a one-time registration of their drones, pilots and owners. For every flight, users will be required to ask for permission to fly via a mobile app, while an automated process will permit or deny the request instantly. However, this is exempted for the nano category.”  

To prevent unauthorised flights and to ensure public safety, any drone without a digital permit to fly will simply not be able to take off. As per the regulation, there are five categories of remotely-piloted airacraft system (RPAS) categorised by weight, namely nano, micro, small, medium and large.
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