Drones Ahoy!

Anand Parthasarathy


On 11 May 2014, pedestrians in the crowded Lower Parel area of Mumbai were startled to see a small object shoot out of a shop-front and disappear into the sky with a whirring sound.  The shop was Francesco’s Pizzeria and its owner had just launched the first commercial operation in India, of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, commonly known as a drone, delivering a hot-from-the-oven pizza to a customer on the 21st floor of an apartment in Worli, 2 km away.

The owner was inspired by the news that the world’s first pizza delivery by drone had been made on the campus of the Free University of Berlin, two years earlier, and Dominos had done the same in the UK.

The Mumbai outlet used a hobby drone, easily available in toy shops – but it was a reflection of the times that the first official reaction was to enquire why no “permission” had been taken and what laws were broken.

But in one way or another, drones had come to India – and the incident triggered curiosity about how such flying platforms could be creatively used. The easiest application was to stick a movie camera on the drone and use it to take aerial views – something Bollywood cinematographers embraced to save on costly helicopter shooting schedules and Bollywood-style weddings harnessed to avoid hiring a crane for that shaadi-ka-video...read more