Vaccine delivery by drones set for takeoff

Telangana government project for using drones to deliver vaccines moved closer to takeoff with Union Ministry of Civil Aviation on Friday granting conditional exemption from certain rules to undertake experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight flights.

“MoCA grants conditional exemption from Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021 to government of Telangana for conducting experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights for delivery of vaccines,” the Ministry tweeted.

Vikarabad has been identified for the project. A release from the office of IT and Industries Minister K. T. Rama Rao said the airspace in Vikarabad was already cleared by the Airports Authority of India. It is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Subject to MHA clearances, the project, to deliver vaccines using drones, is planned to start in 4th week of the month or early June.

The drone flights are to be conducted with the Area Hospital in Vikarabad as hub. Spread over 24 days, the programme will involve four batches, of selected firms, perform sorties for six days each. The payload would be vaccine cold storage boxes equipped with temperature sensors and data loggers to record the performance. In each batch, the first two days will be set aside only for VLOS (Visual Line of Sight) flights, followed by BVLOS flights over different distances.

The Civil Aviation Ministry’s approval for BVLOS follows the one it gave last month for VLOS flights and was critical to explore feasibility of the intended last mile coverage. “This is because medical centres at remote locations are typically far beyond the VLOS range of the vaccine/medical distribution hubs. The BVLOS clearance is a major step towards testing the drones over long distances and gathering information on their reliability,” the release said.

In another tweet, the Union Ministry said “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.”

Vaccine supplies through drone will mark the beginning of the ‘Medicine from the Sky’ project launched by Mr.Rama Rao in late 2019. It is an initiative of the Emerging Technologies Wing of the State IT Department in partnership with World Economic Forum. An expression of interest released in early 2020, inviting participants for the study, had received 16 applications, of which seven would be undertaking flights under the project in Vikarabad, the release said.

IT and Industry Secretary Jayesh Ranjan said success of these trials would establish the use-case and pave the way for adoption of the drones at scale and leveraging them for the healthcare supply chain.

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 11:23:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/vaccine-delivery-by-drones-set-for-takeoff/article34508431.ece

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