Zomato undertakes drone technology trials

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New Delhi: Zomato, an online restaurant booking and food delivery app said that it has successfully tested its maiden drone technology.

The test was conducted using a hybrid drone, with a fusion of rotary wing and fixed wings on a single drone.

Using a hybrid drone with a fusion of rotary and fixed wings on a single drone, the test was conducted. It claimed that the test was successful and seamless, covering a 5 km distance in short 10 minutes at 80 kmph speed and carried a 5kg payload.

Today, the average time required for Zomato’s biker fleet to deliver food is 30.5 minutes. However depending on the delivery distance and traffic situations, covering even short distance within the city limits would be impossible on a bike or metro ride. So drone technology can play a major role in such situations.

In doing so, Zomato recently acquired TechEagle Innovations – a drone delivery technology startup. Leveraging TechEagle’s technology capability, Zomato tested its maiden drone based delivery. With this test, Zomato aims to cut the delivery time half.

The drone used is a lightweight with inbuilt sensors and an onboard computer to sense and avoid static and dynamic objects, overall making it more efficient for autonomous and safe flights. It is also capable of taking off vertically like a helicopter, transiting to an airplane mode to cover the distance and then switching back to helicopter mode for vertical landing without requiring any airstrip.

“The only possible way to reduce the average 30.5 minutes to 15 minutes is to take the aerial route – roads are not efficient for very fast delivery. We have been working towards building sustainable and safe delivery technology and with our first successful test, food delivery by drones is no longer just a pipe dream,” said Deepinder Goyal, Founder & CEO, Zomato.

“While regulatory hurdles are not trivial, and the government’s concerns need to be looked at from various (valid) points of view, the tech is ready to fly and I am confident that drone delivery will be commonplace sooner rather than later,” added Goyal.

In the first iteration of food delivery via drones, the drone will pick up the food package from a restaurant hub (a dispatch station around a cluster of restaurants), and drop the package at a customer hub (a landing station close to dense communities), and return to the dispatch site using a mix of different and appropriate flight modes.

Although being fully automated, each drone is currently being tested with (remote) pilot supervision to ensure 100% safety. Over time, as the company collects more data, it might do away with pilot supervision.

As per the notification issued by Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on 13 May 2019, interested organisations have been asked to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) to the DGCA for conducting experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations (BVLOS) of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)/Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). In response to the notification, Zomato is forming a consortium as per DGCA’s guidelines to carry out experimental BVLOS operations.

Founded in 2008, Zomato has over 1.4 million restaurants across 24 countries connected on its mobile platform and it serves over 70 million users every month.

(Image credit – Zomato)

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