A Large Untapped Opportunity

India is a country with a population of 1.38 Billion and the Urban population has increased from 31% in 2010 to 35% in 2020. India also has one of the largest populations of young people (under 35 years) in the world. As the population increases, so does the need for more advanced transportation systems. On the contrary though, there is not enough road space to accommodate the population growth. India’s road network has increased by a mere 33%, while car registrations have grown by 300%. This highlights a clear imbalance which is a grave cause for concern for a growing congestion issue. Urban congestion costs India upwards of USD 22 Billion per year.

Mumbai is one of the most congested cities in the world. Delhi, Bangalore and Pune have ranked in the top 10 most congested cities consecutively for many years. India’s urban population is projected to grow from about 377 million in 2011 to about 850 million by 2050 – i.e., it is set to more than double within the span of just 40 years. The UN urban population projections indicate that India will have some of the most populous cities in the world by 2030. Delhi’s population is expected to reach close to 40 million, overtaking Tokyo’s (current) 37 million. Many other Indian cities are expected to follow suit, each on its way to becoming home to over 25 million residents within a decade. The Indian Government’s plan for 100 Smart Cities is looking to strengthen the urban landscape.

While the issue of traffic remains or gets worse, India is also seeing steady economic growth, with an increase in annual disposable income.

According to the Credit Suisse Wealth Report 2021, the number of millionaires in India is expected to grow from 689,000 at the end of 2020, to 1.3 million by the end of 2025. As per the Huron Report 2020, India will also see an Emerging New Middle Class, with average savings of Rs 20-lakh ($ 27k) per annum. This increase in disposable income also hints directly at a higher spending capacity and an inclination towards a higher standard of living. With the future of mobility geared towards urban air mobility and more specifically EVAs, which have so far proven to be cost effective with no noise and zero carbon footprint, it is expected to be a fast adopted mode of transport for the Indian population.

Another opportunity for UAM lies in the congestion of airport routes. India has the third largest domestic aviation market in the world with passenger number in FY20 reaching 341 million. Despite this number, there are still many towns that face accessibility concerns and are not connected by commercial airlines. New greenfield airports in India are also being constructed at a distance from the city centre. There’s huge potential in India to be connecting destinations that are usually not connected by commercial aviation – last mile connectivity due to airports being outside the cities or in different cities.

One major travel segment in India is religious tourism. India sees tremendous footfall in religious shrines, but many of the key religious shrines/ tourist attractions involve tedious surface travel from circuiting roads & difficult terrain. India is dotted with multiple pilgrimage sites with around 80 million visitors per year. UAM is best suited to cater to this segment due to the locations that these shrines are situated in, making it impossible for large airports to be built, or to be catered to by fixed-wing aircrafts.

Salient Features of the New Drone Rules

  • The new rules have ended fee reductions, fee amount delinked from the size of the drone, as well as a single-window platform for clearances. Additionally, other approvals and licenses, such as the certificate of conformance and unique authorization numbers, have also been abolished.
  • The Directorate General of Foreign Trade will still regulate the import of drones, with foreign ownership being allowed.
  • Security Clearance is not necessarily needed for Drone Operators before registering or applying for a license. However, operators must have a remote pilot license, and be listed on Digital Sky. Micro drones and nano drones are not required to have pilot licenses.
  • Regarding the new rules, only when a drone is planned to be operated in India will it need a type certificate and unique identification number. On the other hand, if a drone is only being imported and manufactured for export purposes, it does not need the previous requirements.
  • The area of up to 400 feet in “green zones” and up to 200 feet between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter will require a No flight permission.
  • For an easier process for the transfer and deregistration of drones, the vehicle will come under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
  • Drone corridors will be facilitated by the civil aviation ministry, with these corridors being used for deliveries.

New 10-step Helicopter Policy

  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation has set up a Helicopter Accelerator Cell in order to look at industry issues in the helicopter sector. According to the policy, all landing charges are to be canceled, in addition to parking deposits being refunded.
  • An advisory group on helicopters has been established in order to make business easier.
  • Mumbai, Guwahati, Delhi, and Bangalore will see four Heli Hubs and Training units based there. Additionally, Helicopter Corridors will also be established in 10 cities and 82 routes, with the ministry beginning operations on only six routes to start with. These routes include Juhu-Pune, Pune-Juhu, Mahalaxmi Racecourse-Pune, Pune-Mahalaxmi Racecourse, Gandhinagar-Ahmedabad, and Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar.
  • In order to facilitate the immediate evacuation of accident victims, Helipads will be placed along identified expressways. According to the Helicopter Emergency Services, expressways include the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, Ambala-Kotputli Expressway, and the Amritsar-Bathinda-Jamnagar Expressway.
  • As announced by the Civil Aviation Minister, a booklet on the Administrative Guidance Material on Civil Helicopter Operations, titled Heli-Disha, will be given to collectors across the country. This is to ensure awareness at the district administration level.
  • In the same event that saw the release of the Heli-Disha, a centralized Heli Seva porta was also launched. Furthermore, a roadmap for the Heli Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) was also released.

Future of UAM in India

Significant changes in law, new policies as well as the interest by the various state governments and tourism boards to introduce short haul mobility in the country put India on the forefront as a market with great potential for UAM.