Why we may not see drones delivering e-commerce packages in India any time soon

Drones will not be replacing last-mile delivery personnel anytime soon, especially given the significant employment opportunities created by e-commerce industry in India

Supriya Rai
New Update


Drone Destination, a sister-concern of DGCA-approved RPA Manufacturing company Hubblefly Technologies, recently announced its plans to establish India’s largest network of fixed and mobile “Drone Hubs” which will offer "Everything Drones”. The company aims at announcing a 1000 of its hubs over the next two years, and the network will focus on cost effectiveness, efficiency, and turnaround time. Chirag Sharma, MD of Drone Destination spoke to Dataquest to shed more light on the initiative.


DQ: 1000 Drone Hubs from Drone Destination seems ambitious. What are the current resources or measures in place to ensure that you reach this number?

Chirag Sharma: Fortunately, our performance thus far has been robust, reflecting our presence and competence in the market. Our track record speaks for itself, evidenced by returning institutional clients who entrust us with larger projects. Take, for instance, our collaboration with IFCO during Diwali, where we were tasked with deploying 200 drones within a tight timeframe. Despite the challenges, we embraced the opportunity wholeheartedly, leveraging our readiness and foresight.

Central to our success was our preparedness, having anticipated such demands by ensuring a sufficient inventory of drones. This proactive approach stems from staying attuned to market dynamics and planning several months ahead, accounting for emerging trends and regulatory changes. Drone Destination's ability to maintain an early mover advantage lies in our proactive planning and adaptability. By anticipating future needs and preparing well in advance, we've earned the trust of our clients and exceeded expectations time and again.


Our capability to scale rapidly is evident from our past accomplishments.What was once a daunting task of deploying 200 drones now seems modest in comparison to the challenges we willingly undertake. As client demands grow, so does our capacity to meet them head-on.

One of our key strengths is our vertically integrated model, wherein every aspect of the operation is managed in-house. Unlike traditional drone service providers who rely on multiple vendors, we control every stage of the process, ensuring reliability and consistency. This self-reliance has been cultivated over years of experience and investment, culminating in our ability to handle any challenge thrown our way. In essence, our journey has been one of trial by fire, where each obstacle has only fortified our resolve and prepared us for the road ahead. As we look to the future, we remain steadfast in our commitment to excellence and innovation, ready to embrace whatever opportunities come our way.

DQ: How do you plan to reach out to end customers, who are farmers in this case, and educate them on the integrated approach?


Chirag Sharma: This marks the inaugural year for drones entering the market. The initial distribution of a thousand Namo Drone Didi - drones -  this year is just the beginning, with another 15,000 slated for release. On one hand, numerous state governments are independently working on their drone procurement, subsidy, and deployment strategies. With an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 drones entering the market, a significant presence will emerge, leading to greater awareness among potential users.

As word spreads within this network, interest in drone technology amplifies through word of mouth. This ripple effect fosters a collective openness to adopting new technology. Our comprehensive approach, encompassing manufacturing, training, and service provision, enables us to internally cultivate skilled human resources. We are uniquely positioned to train personnel proficiently in drone operation, maintenance, and field challenges. This holistic training ensures that our team effectively represents our brand and delivers exceptional service. Leveraging our integrated capabilities, we can readily disseminate knowledge and expertise to others in the industry.

DQ: You mentioned exploring partnerships with OEMs and industries, correct? Could you elaborate on the specific nature of these partnerships you're considering?


Chirag Sharma: Indeed, we're in talks with a few OEMs interested in expanding their market reach into the Southern region by selling drones and increasing their presence without additional investments. The drone industry, while growing, faces financial constraints, especially among manufacturers. Despite the abundance of manufacturers, many lack the resources to scale or establish widespread distribution channels due to market dynamics and price competition.

In the agricultural drone sector, pricing often dictates market competitiveness, further complicated by the prevalence of unauthorized products. To address these challenges, certified OEMs can leverage partnerships to extend their reach and enhance after-sales support. By collaborating with us, they gain access to a network that facilitates sales and servicing, reducing the need for on-site technicians and streamlining operations.

Additionally, we explore partnerships with service providers to expand their product offerings. For instance, we may collaborate with agricultural chemical companies to incorporate their products into our drone-based spraying services, thereby broadening their market penetration.


These partnerships exemplify our commitment to fostering mutually beneficial collaborations within the industry, enabling us to deliver innovative solutions and drive collective growth.

DQ: Will we be witnessing drones being applied in the e-commerce sector any time soon in India?

Chirag Sharma: In India, the landscape for drone-based e-commerce is still evolving, and I believe we're at least five years away from widespread adoption. While certain drone technologies may be suitable for Western markets, others align better with the unique needs and demographics of our country.


In a country where last-minute delivery via bike or bicycle is cost-effective due to abundant labor, the appeal of drones in urban areas for e-commerce remains limited. However, drones hold great potential in remote or hard-to-reach regions, where ground logistics are more costly than aerial alternatives.

I don't anticipate drones replacing last-mile delivery personnel anytime soon, especially given the significant employment opportunities in our country. Additionally, the use of beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drones with automated, human-free operations raises concerns about job displacement.

While e-commerce companies may explore hub-to-hub drone delivery for cost savings, direct-to-consumer drone deliveries face logistical challenges, particularly in densely populated areas where access to balconies or designated landing spots is limited.

In sectors like healthcare, drones are poised to revolutionize logistics for critical supplies such as medicines and vaccines, particularly in remote or inaccessible regions. However, widespread adoption in sectors like agriculture faces hurdles such as language barriers and regional content availability for training and certification.

The recent removal of passport requirements for drone licensing is a positive step toward democratizing access to drone technology, particularly in rural areas. By vernacularizing training materials and exams, we can empower individuals in rural communities to become certified drone pilots and leverage this technology for local benefit.