Budget carrier SpiceJet on Friday said that it has received approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to conduct drone trials “beyond visual line of sight”, The Times of India reported. The low-cost carrier plans to use drones for faster delivery of medical, essential and e-commerce supplies in remote areas of the country, amid the nationwide coronavirus crisis.

A consortium led by SpiceJet’s freighter arm, SpiceXpress, is the first to receive an approval to pilot the use of drones to transport goods, The Week reported. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Civil Aviation granted exemptions to 13 consortia including SpiceJet, Nandan Nilekani-backed ShopX and Google-backed Dunzo to operate drones on an experimental basis till September 30, without the need for unique identification numbers and operator permits.

SpiceJet Chairperson and Managing Director Ajay Singh said that 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. “We are extremely optimistic about using this exciting new mode of delivery for products like perishables and medicines which have a smaller shelf-life and need urgent deliveries in the remotest parts of India,” he said.

The airline said in a statement that SpiceXpress will focus on delivering medical emergency parcels and essential supplies in remote areas. “Drones will ensure a faster delivery bringing down costs and would go a long way to augment our business to offer express delivery of medicines, perishable items and e-commerce shipments,” it added.

SpiceJet has transported over 12,300 tonnes of cargo on more than 1,728 flights in the period following the lockdown imposed on March 25 to curb the coronavirus pandemic. This includes medical and surgical supplies, sanitisers, face masks, coronavirus rapid test kits and infrared therometers.

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