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From Vaccine Delivery to Medical Supplies, India's First Drone Trial Begins Today | Explained

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The trial will attempt to deliver medicines by drones for a period of 30-45 days in Gauribidanur taluk, around 80 km from Bengaluru.

India’s first medical drone delivery trial is set to begin today in Gauribidanur, around 80 km from Bengaluru. The trial led by a consortium of firms led by Bengaluru’s Throttle Aerospaces Systems had got the approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for object delivery experiments as early as March 2020. However, the pandemic had led to delays in some other permissions from agencies. The firm will carry out the first set of trials for 30-45 days

All about the Trials

A consortium of companies led by Bengaluru based Throttle Aerospace Systems will pilot the trials beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) medical drone from today. The trial will attempt to deliver medicines by drones for a period of 30-45 days in Gauribidanur taluk, around 80 km from Bengaluru. The company will use two variants of MedCOPTER drones - the smaller MedCOPTER drone can deliver a payload of up to 1 kg and has a range of 15 km While the other variant can carry 2kg and can travel up to 12 km. These drones will be assisted by a delivery software named RANDINT.

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The guidelines of the DGCA, which is the regulatory authority, require the consortium to fly for at least 100 hours. The TAS is looking to fly for at least 125 hours during the trial period.

First Delivery Through Drone?

India is easing restrictions on drone flights to facilitate their operations over a wider area, making it feasible for operators to use them for purposes such as delivery. India currently allows drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), to be used only in visual line of sight of their operators. In May, the government granted conditional exemption from the UAS rules to 20 entities to conduct Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) experimental flights of drones.

“Two other consortia also have permission for BVLOS experiments, but ours is the first legal/official medical drone delivery experiment. We have come a long way since 2016 and are at a pivotal moment. After a long wait, we now have an official go-ahead from the BVLOS Experiment Monitoring Committee (BEMC) and we look forward to leveraging commercial drone delivery in India soon,” Nagendran Kandasamy, CEO, TAS told Times of India.

Trials to Deliver Vaccine Underway

The government is already mulling the use of drones for delivery of Covid-19 vaccine to remote areas and difficult-to-reach areas to ensure last-mile coverage. The Centre earlier has come up with a novel plan to deliver Covid-19 Vaccines by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to areas in the country with difficult terrains, after a study by the Indian Institute of Technology, (IIT) Kanpur said it is feasible.

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The HLL Infra Tech Services Limited has on the behalf of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) invited an Expression of Interest (EOI) on June 11 for delivery of vaccines and drugs by UAVs to select locations in India which have difficult terrains. UAVs have been sought by ICMR which can travel upto 35 kms with the supplies and fly at an altitude of at least 100 meters. News18 has a copy of the document, which invites bids by June 22.

Telangana Testing Feasibility

The Telangana government has recently launched a project to study the feasibility of sending medical supplies through drones. The state government in working with Flipkart and Dunzo with logistics experience to execute drone deliveries. The aviation ministry has also exempted the BVLOS restrictions to the Telangana state government to test the feasibility of drone operations for Covid vaccine delivery.

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