Zomato Says It Has Successfully Tested Its Drone Technology For Deliveries

It’s been called food tech space for the last few years, but it might finally be getting its “tech”.

Zomato has said that it has successfully tested its drone technology to make deliveries. “We met all our parameters and were able to cover a distance of 5kms, in about 10 minutes, with a peak speed of 80 kmph, carrying a payload of 5 kgs – using a hybrid drone – fusion of rotary wing and fixed wings on a single drone,” wrote Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal in a blogpost. 

This is the first trial that Zomato has publicly announced of its drone program, which had been in the works since it had acquired Lucknow-based TechEagle Innovations in December last year. TechEagle had been founded in 2015 by IIT Kanpur alum Vikram Singh Meena, and since then had been developing unmanned aerial vehicles with a focus on custom-made drones capable of carrying a payloads of up to 5 kg.

Zomato claims that the drone technology will allow it to deliver food in as little as 15 minutes. “Fifteen minutes is only possible if we take the aerial route – roads are not efficient for very fast delivery,” it says. It doesn’t, however, mean that a drone will land at your house and delivery your food — Zomato has envisaged its drone delivery program to work through delivery hubs. Drones will pick up food packages from a restaurant hub, which will be a drone dispatch station around a cluster of restaurants, and deliver them to a customer hub, which will be a drone station around dense communities. The final delivery will presumably be made by a delivery executive, but with the majority of distance being covered by a drone and avoiding traffic, will shave a significant portion off current delivery times.

Zomato has hinted that it’s already sorted out the technical requirements to start making deliveries. “The tech is ready to fly,” says Deepinder Goyal. But there are still government approvals required before drones can start delivering food. Zomato has said it’s working with government bodies to make sure that drone deliveries become a reality, and has formed a consortium as per DGCA’s guidelines to carry out experimental drone operations. India, for its part, already has a comprehensive drone policy in place, and the government has been making it easier for individuals to register and fly their drones with a slick website and an online application. 

When Zomato’s drone delivery program gets off the ground, it will have some far-reaching effects, not only for food delivery, but for the logistics space in general. Zomato says its current delivery times are around 30 minutes; with its drones, it hopes to bring them down to 15, immediately halving the time it takes for your ordered food to reach you. Also, with large portions of the delivery happening through the air, it can help reduce the number of delivery partners that seem to zip by on their motorcycles on all major Indian cities, and reduce traffic congestion. And once drones become commonplace, there’s no reason why they’d remain confined to food — it possible that any sort of time-sensitive deliver could soon be handled through them. Food deliveries, for their part, had felt pretty magical when apps had first come on the scene — tapping a few buttons on your phone could have food appear at your doorstep. With the food now likely to soon come through the air, the second phase of the food tech space might be soon upon us.