Editorial: Drone Deliveries

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Published: November 1, 2014 1:43 PM

Civilian usages of drones abound but will stay prohibited until DGCA firms up policy

The recent riots in Trilokpuri gave us a glimpse how drones are being used by the Delhi Police. A handful of state police forces use them for crowd management and traffic monitoring during festivals, political rallies or religious events. The biggest buyers of drones in India is the army. They have some 60 drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), for border surveillance. They are also being used for disaster management by the National Disaster Response Force. Currently, a majority of the drones in Indian skies are for security and defence.

Last year, a Mumbai restaurant made a publicity stunt showing a pizza being delivered via drone at a high rise apartment; but it was sent a notice saying it was illegal. India lacks a clear policy on the deployment of flying objects in its territorial skies. Amazon is still to get permission to deliver packages through UAVs. The DGCA has issued a directive banning the use of UAVs for civilian applications till an official policy is formulated. The use of UAVs could open up a host of applications for civilians, ranging from agriculture, wildlife conservation, search and rescue, aerial photography through perimeter security, remote monitoring of pipelines, highways and railways to tracking natural disasters and, eventually, doorstep delivery of products. However, like all technology breakthroughs, drones hold potential risks—intrusive surveillance and safety issues. The problem is that the image of drones as instruments of war remains hard to shake off. Currently, there are five Indian firms making and marketing drones, and a Chinese company has just entered the Indian market, most targeting aerial cinematography or photography. The

DGCA is waiting to see what regulations other countries come up with before they take a position, so it could be a while before you can walk out onto your balcony and take delivery of a flying pizza.

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