The growing popularity of drones is hardly unnoticeable, and the pandemic has played a significant role in spiking its requirement. Though many would argue that it is still eons away from mass adoption, we believe it’s safe to say that drone technology is past the initial barriers that technological innovations usually pose. In the recent past, people have successfully used it for government and business purposes. Also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or flying mini-robots, these machines are slowly getting ready to have a strong foothold in our lives.
The utility of drones finds many faces today. For instance, reducing time and increasing efficiency, improving productivity and deducting costs, increasing accuracy and maintaining better customer relations by providing good service, etc., are some of the uses that drones have found globally on an industrial scale. However, the year 2020 has taken the importance of drones to the next level. Keeping the pandemic protocols of social distancing and minimal human contact in mind, drones can help with the delivery of essential services like medical equipment, food, goods, or for seeing things beyond general visibility (BVLOS – beyond visual line of sight) etc. At least, these initiatives can be taken to begin the process of getting to know the perks of this vehicle besides also testing their limits.
There are several protocols that are essential for drone deployment, and they are being addressed one by one as we dive into integrating them with our lives. Factors like remote ID sensing technology for unmanned drone identification, sensor-based infrastructure for identifying artificial flying objects, or neutralisation infrastructure for non-compliant drones, etc., are being looked into for licensing and regulatory requirements. Early adopters are looking into basic guidelines like airspace traffic management, airspace integration, or TCL (Technical Capability Levels). Further, regulators are pushing for commercialisation and encouraging a crucial number of trials. Back in 2019, in the United States, UPS subsidiary UPS Flight Forward received FAA approval for a drone airline. Additionally, in 2020, brands like Dunzo, Spicejet, Zomato, and Swiggy got DGCA approvals to go ahead with BVLOS deliveries.
A basic commercial drone needs an infrastructure for both vehicle management and traffic system management. One significant aspect of the adoption of drone technology is UAV traffic management. This has several commercial implications, such as fleet management, drone defence, and so on. UTM (Unmanned aircraft system traffic management) operators can use fully compliant systems in particular areas to help out with situations like airspace regulations, drone detection and surveillance, etc.
When it comes to a public set-up, operating any BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) system encompasses many components like weather adaptability, collision avoidance, route planning, and much more. While these are functions that offer great help and convenience, they might be questioned by the public when it comes to safety and privacy concerns. Then again, they need our utmost attention to increase efficiency and avoid accidents and fatalities. The integration of all these pointers is imperative for the smooth functioning of drones.
We would like to believe that with time, the utility of drones will definitely become more defined and refined. Considering the current scenario, the utility of drones is picking up traction in niche segments like crowd monitoring, parcel delivery, mapping, contouring, crop management, warehouse management, recreational flying, etc. Simultaneously, they continue to find a use for structural and defence surveillance and analysis, remote equipment surveillance, hazardous area operations and so on – the list can be endless, just like the possibilities that drone technology brings with it – all one step at a time!
The article is authored by Shyam Menon, Partner and Co-Founder at Bharat Innovation Fund and Chief Growth Officer at CIIE.CO; Anshul Agrawal, ex-intern at Bharat Innovation Fund and Rohan Choukkar, an Associate at the Bharat Innovation Fund.