The objective of using drones is to achieve faster vaccine delivery and improved healthcare access

In what could become an important initiative to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, the Telangana state government has been provided conditional exemption to carry out experimental drone flights for vaccine delivery.

The trials of such drone flights may commence by the end of May.

The Government of Telangana was granted conditional exemption in April for conducting experimental delivery of Covid-19 vaccines within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) Range using drones, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) said on Saturday.

To accelerate the drone deployment process to formulate application-based models, the grant has been extended to Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS).

It may be recalled that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) was granted conditional exemption last month for conducting a feasibility study of Covid-19 vaccine delivery using drones in collaboration with IIT Kanpur.

The objective of these permissions is to achieve faster vaccine delivery and improved healthcare access by ensuring primary healthcare delivery at the citizen’s doorstep.

Using unmanned aircraft systems, or drobes, will limit human exposure to COVID congested or COVID prone areas through aerial delivery.

This will in turn ensure access to healthcare to the last mile, especially in remote areas, possible integration into the middle mile of medical logistics for long range drones and improving medical supply chain, with millions of doses to be transported across India.

One of the conditions laid down by the MoCA and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for conducting experimental BVLOS drone flights for delivery of vaccines by Government of Telangana is that the maximum permitted height for drone operations is 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL), the civil aviation ministry pointed out.

Energy reserve of 15% of flight time will need to be provisioned for during these flights.

Another condition states that the Government of Telangana shall post a Single Point Coordinator (SPC) at Shamshabad ATC for the entire duration of the trial flights to ensure smooth coordination with ATC.

The conditions further mention that drone operations shall be limited between local sunrise and local sunset. It is stated that Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) should prevail at take-off and landing sites. Further, the condition is that weather limitations stipulated by the drone manufacturer shall be complied with.

The Government of Telangana shall submit a detailed Proof of Concept to MoCA and DGCA upon completion of the trials.