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Zomato starts food delivery by drone in India

Food delivery company Zomato reports it has successfully tested food delivery from a hybrid drone.

We have been busy trying to build the tech to get your food to you in less than 15 minutes,” says a company blog. “Fifteen minutes is only possible if we take the aerial route – roads are not efficient for very fast delivery…We acquired TechEagle a few months ago to solve this problem, and others along the way – for example, reduce pollution and traffic….We met all our parameters and were able to cover a distance of 5kms, in about 10 minutes, with a peak speed of 80 kmph, carrying a payload of 5 kgs – using a hybrid drone – fusion of rotary wing and fixed wings on a single drone. This was a non-commercial delivery.

A drone will pick up the food package from a restaurant hub (a dispatch station around a cluster of restaurants), and drop the package at a customer hub (a landing station close to dense communities), and come back to the dispatch site using a mix of different and appropriate flight modes.

“…The final design of our drone is lightweight, and treats safety as a top priority. It has inbuilt sensors and an onboard computer to sense and avoid static and dynamic objects, overall making it more efficient for autonomous flights. Although being fully automated, each drone is currently being tested with (remote) pilot supervision to ensure 100% safety. Over time, as we have more data, we might not need remote pilot supervision.

“As per the notification issued by Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on 13 May 2019, interested organisations have been asked to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) to the DGCA for conducting experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations (BVLOS) of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)/Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). In response to the notification, Zomato is forming a consortium as per DGCA’s guidelines to carry out experimental BVLOS operations.

Food delivery by drones is no longer just a pipe dream. It’s almost here. Regulatory hurdles are not trivial, and the government’s concerns need to be looked at from various (valid) points of view. Having said that, the tech is ready to fly and I am confident that drone delivery will be commonplace sooner rather than later.

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