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Centre gives nod for experimental use of drones to deliver vaccines

The trials are likely to commence from May end.

From rails to road to air, the Government of India is leaving no stone unturned to expand its capacities to battle the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. In an innovative move, the Civil Aviation Ministry has given a nod to the Telangana government to use drones for experimental delivery of vaccines using drone flights.

Sharing the update via a Tweet, “MoCA grants conditional exemption from Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021 to Government of Telangana for conducting experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights for delivery of vaccines,” informed the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

“This exemption will remain valid for a period of one year from the date of approval of the said SOPs or until further orders, whichever is earlier,” said the letter of approval.

Order letter by Ministry of Civil Aviation

In a press release from the office of Telangana IT and Industries Minister K. T. Rama Rao, the airspace in Vikarabad has been identified for the project and is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Home Affairs. 

Informing about the commencement of the trials, the Union Ministry in another Tweet informed, “approval of the proposed airspace for trials is to be obtained from MHA. SOPs need to be approved by @DGCAIndia. Trials likely to commence by May end.”

Trial model and planning

Subject to clearances, the drone flight trials will be conducted with the Area Hospital in Vikarabad as the hub. The program which is said to be spread over 24 days will include four batches of selected firms performing sorties for six days each.

The release additionally stated that the payload would be vaccine cold storage boxes equipped with temperature sensors and data loggers to record the performance. 

The project, as per the official statement, aims at achieving dual objectives of faster vaccine delivery and limiting human exposure to COVID-19 prone areas.

Currently, one of the conditions for the trial remains the maximum permitted height for drone operations that is at not more than 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL).

Project ‘Medicine from the Sky’

The initialization of supplying vaccines through drones will also mark the beginning of the ‘Medicine from the Sky’ project launched by Mr.Rama Rao in late 2019. An initiative of the Emerging Technologies Wing of the State IT Department in partnership with the World Economic Forum, the program invited participants for the study which included undertaking flights under the project in Vikarabad. 

Bengaluru Hospitals use drone

Last week four Bengaluru hospitals made use of drones to deliver vaccines and medicines within their campuses to improve the availability of drugs in Covid wards. The hospitals- Victoria, Vanivilas and Bowring government hospitals — and the Jagjivan Ram Nagar Referral Hospital deployed drones manufactured by Chennai- headquartered Garuda Aerospace.

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