India: Telangana may be the youngest state in India, but it is fast turning out to be at the forefront of adopting emerging technologies. After publishing a comprehensive draft policy for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (or drones) in the state, Telangana is now ready to support beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) missions to accelerate the adoption of commercial drone operations in India.
As per the Information Technology, Electronics & Communications Department of the Government of Telangana, the state wants to achieve the status of ‘BVLOS Compliant’ geography, becoming the first Indian state to support commercial drone deliveries. For the same, the Government of Telangana has submitted a proposal seeking certification to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) along with private drone industry players Terra Drone India, Zipline, and Marut Drones.
However, this is not the first time the state government has come out in support of new age technologies like remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). The ITE&C Department has facilitated several pilot projects for drones in the past, including the use of drones for precision agriculture, agricultural spraying, volumetric analysis of mines, and flood modeling.
The Department is also in the final stages of conceptualizing a ‘Telangana Drone City’, wherein an entire ecosystem will be developed only for the support of RPAS technologies. According to Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary (Industries, Commerce, and ITE&C), Government of Telangana, “The Telangana Drone City will provide one-of-its-kind facilities to support the research, manufacturing, and operations of RPAS technology suites.”
Telangana’s expression of interest in seeking DGCA certification for BVLOS drone operations is a natural extension of this vision.
Ranjan says, “During our internal evaluations and brainstorming sessions with drone operators based in Telangana, we came to the conclusion that BVLOS operations – if conducted within a regulated framework of safety in consultation with law enforcement agencies – are crucial to tap into the true potential of drone technologies. The induction of these technologies into mainstream administration and governance delivery can make a remarkable positive impact on the lives of millions of citizens.”
For example, with BVLOS flights, not only will governments be able to bridge the urban and rural technological divide, but the widespread adoption of BVLOS drone operations will also revolutionize industries like oil and gas, utilities, and insurance with highly geo-accurate aerial data. Medical product delivery company Zipline’s partnership with the Government of Telangana for BVLOS drone flights rests on the visionary thought of providing emergencies deliveries of blood and critical medicines to remote primary healthcare centers all across the state. The initiative will be first-of-its-kind in India, as well as in the Asia Pacific region.
Wing Commander Polu Sreedhar, Chief Operating Officer, Terra Drone India, concludes, “The Government of Telangana has a leader-board position in the promotion of Fifth Generation technologies. The vision of Sh. Jayesh Ranjan is to ensure that India and the region do not lose out on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This has resulted in a slew of comprehensive policy and industry support initiatives like the one being undertaken for BVLOS projects.”