Drones used for COVID-19 vaccine delivery on experimental basis to boost healthcare access

Government has agreed to provide conditional exemption for experimental drone flights to be used for vaccine delivery as part of an endeavour to assist the nation in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drones used for COVID-19 vaccine delivery on experimental basis to boost healthcare access
Image used for representational purpose

New Delhi: The Centre has agreed to provide conditional exemption to drone flights as part of an experiment to use them for vaccine delivery to provide help in the nation's to fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) granted conditional exemption to Telangana government to conduct experimental drone flights of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) for delivery of vaccines. To accomodate this, an exemption was granted from the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021.

The press note issued by MoCA to this effect stated: "This exemption shall be subject to complete adherence to the conditions and the directions/ exemptions issued (or to be issued in future) by MoCA. This exemption shall be valid for a period of one year from the date of approval of the SOP or until further orders, whichever is earlier."

The aim is to delivery vaccines faster and improve healthcare access by ensuring delivery of primary healthcare services at the citizen’s doorstep. It will further, limit human exposure to COVID congested or COVID prone areas and ensure access to health care, especially in remote areas.

Last month, the Telangana government was granted conditional exemption for conducting experimental delivery of COVID-19 vaccines within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) Range using drones. To accelerate the drone deployment process to formulate application-based models, the grant has been extended to Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). 

Earlier, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in collaboration with IIT Kanpur conducted a feasibility study of COVID-19 vaccine delivery using drones and was granted conditional exemption.

The trials may commence by end of May 2021.

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