The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has given a nod to food startups like ZomatoSwiggy and Dunzo to start testing beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) drones for deliveries.

According to a report, budget airline SpiceJet, Reliance-backed drone startup Asteria Aerospace, Zomato, Swiggy and Dunzo are among 13 consortia that have received approvals from the aviation regulator to test fly drones.

Last year, India announced its plans to allow experimental long-range drone flights. The tests are likely to begin in three weeks time. This will be India’s first step to develop local drone-based services.

This consortia will need to complete at least 100 hours of flight time in the specific airspace designated by Airport Authority of India by September 30. They have to submit their reports to the DGCA.

In May, budget airline SpiceJet said that it received permission to conduct drone trials. SpiceXpress, the airline’s cargo arm, will focus on delivering medical emergency parcels and essential supplies including perishables after trials.

“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,” SpiceJet chairman and managing director Ajay Singh said.

“Food delivery by drones is no longer just a pipe dream. It’s almost here,” the Zomato founder said earlier.

Last year, the popular food delivery startup Zomato successfully completed a test delivery using drones in India. The drone carried a payload of 5 kg covered 5 kms in 10 minutes, said Deepinder Goyal, the CEO of Zomato. The drone hit a peak speed of 80 kmph. The food delivery chain aims to deliver food to customer in less than 15 minutes.

“Fifteen minutes is only possible if we take the aerial route – roads are not efficient for very fast delivery,” Goyal said. Zomato had also acquired local drone startup TechEagle in 2018 for faster and smoother delivery.

At a time when the world is looking for new ways for contactless delivery, the approval of drone delivery can prove to be a game-changer.