Major Obstacle We Anticipate for Operating Delivery by Drones is Local Infrastructure While Landing and Takeoff

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Imagining a drone delivery hubs infrastructure ecosystem in India is not anymore a far dreaming future. This company has already pulled up its sleeves to make Cargo Drones and Passenger Drones a reality for the Indian market. TimesTech Buzz got alongside Swapnik Jakkampuddi, Co-Founder, Skye Air Mobility the visionary man behind this Jetson’s future. Here in the below-edited excerpts, he underlines how he is making this a reality; the mechatronics and strategy of the company.

TimesTech: Cargo Drones and passengers Drones are creating a lot of buzz in recent days. Do you think the breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic gave a good mileage to the Drone sector, especially accelerating these two segments?

Swapnik: The pandemic has disrupted industries and the daily habits of customers. It has led to everyone relooking at the traditional and existing processes. Even before the pandemic, we were seeing the transition from the traditional brick motor retail to e-commerce but now the pandemic has accelerated it 10-fold. It has led all the e-commerce players to tap into innovative tools and solutions that will help fulfill this demand at the same time bring down cost and time for operations. We are seeing the willingness of industry players to change their business and operating models to accommodate drones to derive value for both.

With consumers hearing and witnessing more projects being executed by drones, there has been more social acceptance and excitement for passenger drones. This is taking place due to the trust that is being built with the public at large.

TimesTech: Recently rolled out regulations are found to be industry-friendly. How are they helping out the Delivery and Air Taxi segments of the Indian Drone industry?

Swapnik: The recent change in regulation has opened many industries for drones. It has also led numerous clients to conduct done drone trials with us for various use cases after the new regulations. New clients are reaching out to us to study and evaluate drones as technology. This has enabled clients to understand and get hands-on experience of drones as technology. We are excited and actively working with our clients and partners on how to integrate drones to unlock value for them in their business model and operations. It has sparked conversation in many aspects with the clients which could not have happened before the new regulations. The learning has been immense.

TimesTech: ‘Medicines From The Sky’ project seems to have turned the heads of industry majors, policymakers as well as people from other sectors. Can you brief about the delivery trials and the take-aways from this project?

Swapnik: The aim of the ‘Medicines From The Sky’ is to connect the various health care centers operated by the Telangana state government across the state by drones. Drones will perform logistics between health care centers for Vaccine, medicines, blood etc while maintaining cold chain capability.

The trials were very successful in demonstrating the capability of drones to conduct delivery flights while maintaining the cold chain. We were able to demonstrate different flight envelopes and use cases such as reverse logistics etc. The trials have led us to understand and collect data on the use case. It has given us confidence that technology that is already present will be able to cater and solve the problem at hand. We were able to successfully conduct around 175 deliveries for which we are analyzing data and learning from it.

TimesTech: Could you throw some light on your recently formed Flipkart Air consortium with DroneAcharya? What kind of participation is expected from each and every firm under this consortium?

Swapnik: Different consortium members are performing different roles. In the Flipkart Air consortium, Skye Air is a drone delivery platform provider and carries out the full operations in collaboration with DroneAchayra. Altitude angel is our UTM partner. Alternative Global India (AGI) is the Consulting partner providing Safety Expert and Coldchain expertise through Bagmo.

TimesTech: What could be the major operational challenges faced while operating delivery Drones, especially while considering the Indian Landscape? How are you planning to overcome them?

Swapnik: The major obstacles that we anticipate for operating delivery by drones would be local infrastructure that we would have to overcome while we are performing landing and takeoff. We would have to consider different scenarios. For example, physical obstacles, electrical and communication disturbances. We are already working on new technology and process that will help us in tackling these issues. We are confident we will be able to solve these problems as we go ahead.

TimesTech: Apart from the deliveries/logistics, what are your other areas of focus?

Swapnik: Right now, Skye air sole focus is on deliveries/logistics.

TimesTech: Where do you see the Drone delivery sector heading in the coming 2-3 years?

Swapnik: In the coming 2-3 years, we will first set up Skye air tunnels that are essentially establishing air routes for delivery by drones in different geographic regions and use cases. We will work with different private enterprises and governments to make it happen. The aim is to aggressively work on the drone delivery hubs infrastructure and ecosystem. Our plan is in the next stage to not only do delivery between hubs but also last-mile delivery.

TimesTech: When do you expect the first commercial Skye Air operations to start?

Swapnik: Skye air has already done trials that are paid but we expect to start commercial trials in the coming weeks with various clients in India as well as internationally.

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