Pilot test for drone delivery of covid jabs to begin from today

By Rhik Kundu
The launch of the pilot project was delayed by several months due to covid-19 induced lockdowns and delays in regulatory clearances. (AFP)

NEW DELHI : After much delay, India’s first pilot programme involving drones to deliver covid-19 vaccines is expected to take off soon in Telangana.

The drone trials for delivery of medicines and vaccines, under the Medicine from the Sky project, will be held in Vikarabad, Hyderabad, from 9 September to 17 October.

Medicine From The Sky  is a project of the Telangana Govt, which involves trials of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights for delivery of covid-19 vaccines.

Blue Dart Express and its drone delivery partner Skye Air Mobility will fly the first drone flight under the Medicine in the Sky trials, Sky Air Mobility said in a statement.

There are about eight consortia carrying out trials for the Medicine from the Sky project, including Dunzo and Flipkart.

"The key elements that were deterrents in the sector for a long period are now in favour of this development," said Swapnik Jakkampundi, co-founder, Skye Air Mobility.

The launch of the pilot project has been been delayed by several months due to covid-19 induced lockdowns and delays in regulatory clearances.

"While the nation is focusing on achieving 100% vaccination, the current situation calls for a much deeper penetration of vaccines, especially in the remote areas. Delivery of vaccination through drones would be a stepping stone to achieve this goal," said Balfour Manuel, managing director, Blue Dart.

Each drone will carry a maximum of three kilogram of payload, which will be enough to carry at least two units of blood and many vaccine vials.

If the trials are successful, the drone delivery model for emergency medicines and vaccines will be implemented on a commercial level.

The use of drones to deliver vaccines and medicines will be mostly for emergencies and will be deployed in difficult-to-reach hilly regions such as in northeast India, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, where transport of medicine and vaccines becomes difficult, especially during the monsoons.

During the trials, the eight consortia will be divided into four batches of two each. Each consortium will get about six days to complete the test flights.


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