Online food delivery as it works today would’ve felt like science fiction even a couple of decades ago — a real-time menu of restaurants around the city is available at your fingertips, payments can be made online, and all kinds of meals reach your home in minutes. But deliveries in India seem set to become even more high-tech than they currently are.
Swiggy has announced it will soon begin testing deliveries through drones. The pilot project will be run for its grocery delivery service, Instamart, and will begin in Delhi-NCR and Bangalore starting next month. Swiggy has already identified two drone companies which will help the deliveries — Garuda Aerospace will help Swiggy make deliveries in Bangalore, while Skyeair Mobility will help it in Delhi-NCR.
Swiggy, though, won’t use drones to make deliveries straight to customers, but instead use them during the supply chain. “The pilot is to evaluate the feasibility of drones for the middle mile use case, particularly for Swiggy’s grocery delivery service Instamart,” Swiggy explained in a blogpost. “Drones will be used to replenish stocks between seller-run dark stores and from a store to a common customer point. A delivery partner will then pick up orders from the common point and deliver them to the customer’s doorstep,” it added.
Swiggy also illustrated how it would use the drones. Swiggy says it will create Drone Ports at “Common Customer Points”, which will be located close to high-density residential areas. Swiggy’s Dark Stores will also have these Drone Ports, and drones would fly from the stores to these Common Customer Points. From these Common Customer Points, Swiggy will ferry goods to customers through traditional scooter-bound delivery executives. Drones would also be used to ferry goods from one dark store to another.
It’s possible that using drones could significantly cut down on delivery times — drones will be able avoid traffic and fly straight from Swiggy’s dark stores to somewhere in the vicinity of customers, from where delivery executives will be able to carry them to final customers. It’s also possible that drone deliveries could be cost-effective too — apart from the capital expenditure on buying the drones, making deliveries, on a per kilometer basis, might work out to be comparable to a human driving a scooter through traffic.
Swiggy isn’t the only delivery company that has thought about using drones to deliver products to customers. Zomato had even acquired a drone startup in 2018, but parted ways with it in 2020. Dunzo, for its part, had received approval from from DGCA to test drone deliveries all the way back in 2020. But it’s Swiggy that appears to have stolen a march over its rivals, and is set to become the first delivery company to test drone deliveries in the real world. And while these are still early days for drones, if Swiggy’s drone pilots work out as intended, India’s delivery sector could be end being radically transformed in the years to come.