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After Centre’s nod, Telangana to try out drones for vaccine delivery

The focus of Telangana's 'Medicine From the Sky' (MFTS) trials, considering the ongoing COVID vaccination drive, will be on transporting vaccine vials to remote locations.

By: Express Web Desk | Hyderabad |
April 30, 2021 8:55:45 pm
Telangana, Covid-19The nod is for delivery within the Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) range for a year. (Representational Photo/File)

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) Friday gave the Telangana government conditional exemption from Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021, for conducting experimental delivery of vaccines using drones.

The focus of Telangana’s ‘Medicine From the Sky’ (MFTS) trials, considering the ongoing COVID vaccination drive, will be on transporting vaccine vials to remote locations.

The nod is for delivery within the Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) range for a year.

“The Government of Telangana had sought the exemption from UAS Rules, 2021 for the delivery of vaccines on 9th March 2021 while the DGCA accorded approval on 26th April 2021,” MOCA tweeted on Friday.

According to a statement from the Telangana IT Department , the plan for MFTS “shall involve undertaking BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) flights in Vikarabad district of Telangana with the Area Hospital as the take-off site and various PHCs (public health centres and sub-centres as the landing sites”.

For this purpose, the state government has already engaged the Vikarabad district administration to plan the on-ground operations and has also identified nodal officers to support the same.

“Each drone would carry a combination of dummy vials and regular vaccines over the course of the trials and the performance would be recorded in detail and this data shall be used to guide further policies regarding full-scale adoption,” said the statement.

It was during the Wings 2020 event in Hyderabad last year, the state government partnered with the World Economic Forum for the MFTS programme and had released an expression of interest (EOI) to assess the capability of drone service providers in providing safe, accurate, and reliable pickup and delivery of Health care items. Out of the 16 consortia members that had responded, 8 were shortlisted.

The officials have now planned a 24-day programme where the 8 selected consortia would be divided into four batches of two consortia, and each batch would perform the sorties for six days. A week to conduct on-ground recces would also be given to all consortia before the start of the programme.

The state government has been accorded a no-objection from AAI on the use of identified airspace in Vikarabad District, SOP approval for VLOS operations from DGCA, and UAS 2021 exemption from MoCA. The government is still pursuing the BVLOS (‘Beyond Visual Line of Sight) exemptions.

Stating that Telangana is determined to leverage emerging technologies and ensure primary healthcare is accessible in even the remotest areas, Jayesh Ranjan, principal secretary, Government of Telangana, said, the MFTS trials would yield important information on the reliability of drones and their adoption in medical deliveries.

“The approval from MoCA is highly appreciated and we look forward to working with the ministry in conducting these trials in the safest manner by strict adherence to SOPs and having risk mitigation strategies in place. The success of this program has the potential to disrupt the healthcare industry and save many lives during emergencies and in less accessible geographies,” he said in the statement.

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