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Leaders call for DGCA intervention for setting up organised infra for drones

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The need for a systematic intervention by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to create infrastructure for drone training was stressed at a round-table, headed by Rajiv Bansal, CEO of National Institute of Smart Government and former secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, and with participation from various drone manufacturing and technology companies. The panel plans to put forth this proposal to the DGCA. 

“This includes not just drone highways or airstrips but also airspace free from manned traffic and advanced conditions for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations, inspired by global practice,” said Chirag Sharma, CEO of Drone Destination.  

With over 200 startups, the sector is set to see a significant demand for drones for commercial and private purposes in the civilian sector. Wings India 2024 at the Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad also saw experts from the industry talk about cutting-edge drone technologies in revolutionising the aviation landscape.

Citing the example of Singapore, Tan Kah Han, CEO and senior director for Unnamed Systems Group, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), said there is a need for standard-setting authorities for quality assurance (airworthiness) and certification of the latest drone technologies.

Mr. Han said that the country is in the final stage of scripting requirements for the Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) system, and exploring how UTM and ATM (Air Traffic Management) will be connected.

Drones are currently used in the areas of emergency medicine, precision agriculture and surveillance among others. Experts opined drones in the agriculture domain are going to be a mainstay, while areas like cargo, especially last-mile delivery, will emerge as a major application in the days to come. This would also mean larger, autonomous drones with BVLOS capabilities, the regulations for which are not ready.

Traffic management, cybersecurity concerns and battery management continue to remain challenges for the drone industry to scale its operations and applications, explained Sudheer Kumar, CEO of software development and consulting services company Siri AB.

India is doing well in terms of manufacturing, however, we need more players in the area of battery manufacturing, Sharma said.

 
Experts also suggested looking at alternative materials for batteries. “Since lithium is scarce, we need to move from our conventional lithium-ion batteries to lithium nitride or sodium-ion batteries,” argued Deepak Bhardwaj, director and co-founder of IoTechWorld Aviation, an agri drone company. 

 

 

According to C.S. Sharma, joint director of the Quality Council of India, while attaining good quality products or services takes about 5-10% of the total revenue which includes the cost of designing, processes, audits and defining quality assurance protocols, cost of poor quality may go up to 50-35% of total revenue which includes the cost of defective products,  downtimes, breakdowns, litigations among others, encouraging startups to focus on manufacturing quality technologies. 

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