Case Study on Running Live Drone Delivery Route in Nizamabad
Statement of the issue: Poor logistics connectivity in rural India
Presentation of the problem:
With the increase of population from 36 crores to 140 crores (i) in India in 75 years, demand in every sector has also grown fortnight. To meet this high demand, many industries have been put in place in India. But it became more important to ensure the delivery of these goods to the people of India. Thus, logistics companies have also expanded their operations to ensure a smooth supply chain in India.
Since India’s independence, high-income groups have been situated in major cities in India, where the majority of the population has migrated to find a good job and a better lifestyle. Thus, the first expansion of the logistics industry also started by connecting Tier 1 cities in India. The trend continued for the next 60 years since independence.
But the market saw a major change in 2007–2008. When the entire world was pushed into recession, the Indian market was able to deal with inflation and recession with only minor effects. When the major economies were facing the rough phase of recession, the Indian economy was able to grow at 6.7%(ii).
The major contributor due to which India was able to minimise the effect of the global downturn was the growth of the rural market. India has started investing more in the network from urban cities to rural India. After seeing the opportunity to grow the economy at a faster rate, infrastructure was needed to connect the two.
To deal with the problem, logistics and the government started working together to form a faster and more diverse infrastructure. The government invested close to Rs. 1,37,354 lakh crores(iii) for the development of the ecosystem in 2018–2019. 41,213(iii) Kms roads have been built between 2014 to 2019. But the cost of creating the infrastructure is huge. Also, the sustainability of the infrastructure has always been a problem.
Thus, many areas of the nation still lack connectivity. This leads to the opportunity to connect them with drone logistics.
DRONECO understood the above issue after interacting with various stakeholders from the industry. To address the issue, DRONECO started identifying the locations where connectivity was still not resolved. After going through the data, DRONECO undertook the project to connect Nizamabad’s location to nearby villages and cities for express deliveries.
DRONECO started the project to deliver medicines and clinical items to the hospitals from the warehouse in Nizamabad.
Nizamabad is a city located 227 (3hrs 57 mins) Kms from Hyderabad airport. The corresponding aerial distance is 162 drone miles (1 hour 45 mins).
Nizamabad had been connected with the cities Yedapally (14 kms), Bodhan (23 Kms), Pothangal (38 Kms), Kotagire (33 Kms), Banaswada (41 Kms), Yellareddy (53 Kms), Armoor (24 Kms), Donkeshwar (32 Kms) and Nirmal (54 Kms). The connectivity is established to deliver medical goods directly to hospitals.
SORA analysis for the route is done. SORA is a risk assessment methodology for evaluating the potential risks associated with operating a UAS within a specific category. It involves quantifying both ground and air risks and combining these risks with any mitigation measures to calculate a SAIL score. In this case, the company has a GRC score of 3 and an ARC-c score, which results in a SAIL score of IV.
The main warehouse has been setup in Nizamabad where all the medical supplies have been stored. During the route exploration, it was understood that deliveries of medical items in these areas take 4 hours on average. In some cases, same-day delivery was not possible because of poor road connectivity. Thus, it became a challenge to deliver medical goods on time to hospitals, especially in cases of medical emergencies.
DRONECO, after interacting with the medical vendors and hospitals, defined routes to start serving the community at a faster pace. The average TAT to deliver goods in these locations came down to 39.4 minutes. This ensured not only a faster delivery of emergency items but also helped save lives in medical emergencies.
The operations are defined after collaborating with close to 45 hospitals in these regions. DRONECO provided a solution, where goods are picked up directly from the warehouse and delivered directly to the hospitals. Take-off and landing locations are marked on either the rooftop of hospitals or at a radius of 2 Kms from the hospitals if landing space is not available within the hospital’s premises. The drones are used to transfer the goods from the warehouse to the hospitals.
After marking the take-off and landing locations, drones are loaded with goods. Once the receiver location is received, the mission is defined for the drone with the help of UTM. The details are fed into the system, and the final path for the drone is defined by UTM and created in-house. UTM checks and identifies the red, yellow, and green zones and creates a path to fly. If permission is not received for the drone to fly in the red zone, an altered path is defined by the system. The entire path-defining process is automated by the software to avoid any human error. Once the path is finalized, the drone initiates a health check-up, which defines whether it is fit to complete the mission or not. The data is shared with the UTM, which ensures the drone is fit to complete the mission. Once the green signal is received from the UTM and drone operator, the drone is ready to take off.
Real-time drone monitoring is done through UTM and the drone pilot. The drone pilot ensures the drone is at the right height and on the right path during the operation. The entire flight is automated. DRONECO follows level 5 automation for the operations. This eliminates human error in BVLOS missions. Also, the drone’s health is shared on a real-time basis with the drone operator through UTM. In case of emergencies, the drone can be switched from autopilot to manual mode. This ensures an additional layer of safety during the operations.
The route was made operational on 18th November 2022. After starting the routes, on average, 9 deliveries are completed daily. The first delivery was done from Nizamabad to Yedapally. Post this, more hospitals were connected and deliveries were completed.
With drone deliveries becoming a reality, delivery times for clients were able to be cut by ~53%. Having an average delivery time of 5–6 hours on these routes, DRONECO was able to cut down the time to 39.4 minutes on average. This proves a faster and better mode of transportation in the locality. With these numbers, 400 hospitals will be joining the network of drone delivery by January 2023.
DRONECO is adding more routes to the existing routes to serve a bigger area with express connectivity. DRONECO will be operational in 21 cities by January 2023. This will give us a bigger chance to serve humanity and save human lives.
To start the operations, it was important to identify places from where drones could take off and land. The drone needs a 5m X 5m open space to operate. Thus, the team first identified the locations where this open space is available and is also in the permissible fly zone. Nizamabad warehouse is the perfect example of a location to operate a drone. The warehouse is 20 x 15 sq. ft., which gives an area for 4 drone landing and take-off locations. The place can also be used to store goods for the vendors. Thus, Nizamabad’s warehouse has been identified as the Mother Hub by DRONECO. Nizamabad warehouse also has a control unit from where all the local drone traffic is controlled.
Drone delivery can indeed be faster and more cost effective than traditional transportation methods in certain situations. For example, drones can be used to deliver goods to remote or hard-to-reach areas where it would be difficult or costly to build roads or other infrastructure. Drones can also be used to make deliveries in urban areas where traffic congestion or lack of parking makes it difficult for traditional delivery vehicles to operate efficiently.
To make drone delivery more attractive to partners in the logistics industry, drone companies may need to find ways to reduce the cost of drone operations. This could involve optimizing routes to minimize flight time and distance, increasing the efficiency of drone operations through the use of advanced technologies such as machine learning, or finding ways to lower the cost of maintenance and repair. It is also important for drone companies to work closely with regulators and policymakers to ensure that the necessary infrastructure and regulations are in place to support the widespread adoption of drones in logistics.
(i) — The World Bank data https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=IN
(ii) — Economic Survey 2008–09 https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/budget_archive/es2008-09/chapt2009/chap12.pdf
(iii) — Year End Review 2019- Ministry of Road Transport & Highways Posted On: 01 JAN 2020 12:42PM by PIB Delhi https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1598116