SpiceJet (SG, Delhi Int'l) has been given official clearance to begin trials using drones to deliver medical supplies and other cargo, especially to remote areas.

The budget carrier on May 29 announced it had received formal approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to conduct the drone trials.

Once trials and approvals have been obtained, SpiceXpress, the dedicated cargo arm of SpiceJet, plans to use drones to provide for quicker, faster and cost-effective delivery of medical, pharma and essential supplies and e-commerce products. SpiceJet did not specify when trials will begin.

A SpiceXpress-led consortium submitted a proposal to the regulator for conducting experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations of remotely piloted aircraft in response to a DGCA notice inviting expressions of interest.

The consortium includes Throttle Aerospace, a drone manufacturing company, AeoLogic, an analytics and software solution firm, and Involia, which is a provider of air traffic awareness and collision avoidance services.

SpiceXpress will be looking at last-mile delivery from the warehouse, and the prime focus will be on delivering medical emergency parcels and essential supplies in remote areas, it said, and will be cheaper and faster than other means.

India’s coronavirus lockdown, which began on March 25, has resulted in a massive surge in demand for the home delivery of household goods, food and medicines.

Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director of SpiceJet, said, “Testing of drone technology for last-mile connectivity and cost-effective cargo deliveries are a big leap in the air transportation of essential and non-essential supplies in India. We are extremely optimistic about using this exciting new mode of delivery for products like perishables and medicines which have a smaller shelf-life and need urgent deliveries in the remotest parts of India.”

SpiceJet meanwhile has been active with manned cargo flights. “Turning a crisis into an opportunity, Spicejet has extended its cargo operations. This will be of great help in transporting essentials in smaller towns and cities,” the airline said on May 30. “We are delighted to have carried over 12,000 tons of medical supplies and farm produce since the lockdown began. We are constantly innovating to the changing situations. Our cargo network has 25 international locations, most of which we added in the last 60 days”.