Commercial Drones PilotsDrones will save human lives, but pizza delivery, not now

November 10, 2021by helo-10
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India’s new drone policy has generated huge excitement. But ‘blood before burritos,’ say experts
India liberalised the drone policy and rules so dramatically recently that there has been an explosion in interest in using drones to solve a variety of problems. New ventures are emerging in the space. Older ones in allied areas like electronic devices are getting into it. And those who had started working on drones a few years ago – when India had an extremely strict policy – suddenly find themselves sitting on a potential goldmine.
Public imagination has been captured by the idea of pizzas and e-commerce packages being delivered to people’s homes by drones. But that will likely take years, if at all, said Amit Ganjoo, founder & CEO of Washington-based drone company ANRA Technologies, at the Times Techies Webinar last week. Dense Indian cities will make it particularly difficult. Where drones will make the biggest early difference is in areas like mining, telecom, agriculture, disaster management, and healthcare. Here, drones will help reduce accidents and deaths, reach areas humans can’t – or will find difficult to – and ensure faster medicine and organ deliveries.

“I have a friend who uses the term `Blood before burritos.’ The humanitarian areas where drones help will probably precede any commercial ones,” Ganjoo said.
Mughilan Ramasamy, who cofounded Skylark Drones in 2015, agreed. He said a lot of human lives are lost when people climb up to inspect and take measurements of things like power lines and cellphone towers. Today, drones, with intelligence embedded in them, can do the same thing far more easily. “Drones bring extremely high efficiencies, can’t even be compared to manual ways. We want to unlock the economic potential of the sky,” said Ramasamy, whose company has developed a software platform that allows varied industries to use drones in the specific ways they need, and to draw insights from the data that the drones capture.
But drones involve complex technology. Mainly because safety standards, like in general aviation, have to be very high. If you are driving a car and something happens, you can pull over to the side. In aviation, something happens, there’s no side road to pull over to. “One incident can make the industry take a step back. It’s different when you do visual line of sight operations (where the drone remains in your sight), or fly in rural areas. But when you start doing flights in dense urban areas, or flying beyond visual line of sight, you have to factor in ground risk, air risk, contingency management,” said Ganjoo.
Vishal Saurav, co-founder & CEO of drone maker VFLYX, said building a drone is one thing, but building it to the standards that regulators expect is quite another. He said drones also require proper maintenance, and operations to deliver the best results. India, in particular, is very cost conscious. So, efficiency of drones is crucial. “We will come up with a plan for an all-India network, and one where people will join us to build different kinds of drones for various applications,” he said.
DRONE PILOTS NEEDED
The drone world will create new kinds of jobs. Most prominently, it will need lots of drone pilots. Ramasamy said all those who are doing surveying, inspection and certain other kinds of manual work will become new-age drone pilots in the future. “Pilots will have softwares, they will have to pick mission types, look at the data feed on their phone, and figure out the problem areas,” he said.
Saurav said India will need youngsters who can fly drones in various situations, execute projects.
“From a hardware point of view, we will need aerospace engineering, and mechanical engineering experts. And then we’ll need people for AI/ML implementation, to process the data collected. Programmers are needed to bring about change in the drone industry,” he said.
Ramasamy said engineering courses will have to teach how to analyse information coming from drones. “There are hyperspectral sensors, multispectral sensors, new forms of imagery. These will have to be analysed,” he said, noting that many drone training schools are coming up.
Ganjoo said the industry will particularly need people who can think outside the box, find creative applications of these new technologies.





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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.

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