Zomato Tests Drones for Food Deliveries in India

Zomato Tests Drones for Food Deliveries in India

Author: Michael Cheng   

Food delivery giant Zomato is one step closer to taking its massive food delivery operations to the skies. The startup announced it completed a series of successful drone tests in India.

In the trials, the company showcased a hybrid quadcopter flying across several locations, mimicking the basic activities of an aerial food delivery service. The aircrafts are part of Zomato's plans to increase its future operating capacity and efficiency.

Successful Drone Trials

The drone used during the trials is a unit with fixed and rotary wings. During flight, the quadcopter was able to cover approximately 3.1 miles (5 kms), which took 10 minutes to complete. The compact aircraft can carry payloads weighing up to 11.02 pounds (5 kgs). This threshold is ideal for mainstream food deliveries. Drones are loaded with items at a centralized location, where orders are managed and dispatched.

For now, the units make deliveries to a landing station installed in the middle of dense communities or urban sites. Small sensors and micro-computers help guide the quadcopters. The components also prevent collisions with objects, nearby buildings and structures.

"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 and CEO of Zomato.

Goyal confirmed that every quadcopter being tested is monitored by a remote (human) operator. He also added that in the future, as the startup and aerial regulators gain confidence in the drone delivery service, such tight supervision may no longer be required. To ease such aspects of operations and based on standards implemented by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Zomato is collaborating with multiple expert agencies on the trials.

In India, quadcopters are viewed as a way to circumvent congested roads and winding traffic during peak hours of the day. According to the startup, a hybrid drone can deliver food to the outskirts of cities faster than commercial vehicles and motorbikes.

Supplementing Operations with Drones

Zomato's plan to supplement its growing operations with drones was carefully crafted by the startup. Last year, it acquired TechEagle, a Lucknow-based company that specializes in commercial drones. The strategic deal leverages TechEagle's expertise in hybrid multi-rotor quadcopters. During the announcement of the acquisition, Zomato revealed intentions to conduct drone trials for food deliveries in India.

"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," cited Goyal.

The immense challenges associated with launching a drone-based food delivery service are numerous, but Zomato could be working on ways to address such hurdles. Recent news reports suggest the startup is attempting to raise new capital – in the range of $600-700 million. Swiggy, one of the company's competitors serving similar locations, is also seeking to raise the same amount. To date, both startups are valued over $3 billion.

Michael Cheng
Michael Cheng
Michael Cheng is a legal editor and technical writer with publications for Blackberry ISHN Magazine Houzz and Payment Week. He specializes in technology business and digesting hard data. Outside of work Michael likes to train for marathons spend time with his daughter and explore new places.
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