Vaccine delivery through drones: Telangana to test feasibility, ICMR seeks bids from UAV operators.

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State and Centre governments are exploring different ways to accelerate the vaccination process especially in remote areas where healthcare infrastructure is weak and delivering vaccines is difficult. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has invited bids from interested drone operators adept for the service to supply vaccines and medicines said an IE report. The Telangana government also recently launched a project to study the delivery feasibility of sending medical supplies through drones. Flipkart and Dunzo with logistics experience are now working with Telangana’s drone delivery schedule to execute drone deliveries there.

HLL Infra Tech Services has expressed interest in developing a feasible model for last-minute vaccine delivery at difficult terrains, said ICMR’s June 11 tender document. The tender was floated citing preliminary results of a feasibility study conducted by IIT-Kanpur to deliver vaccines using unmanned aerial vehicles.

After the Ministry of Civil Aviation granted a conditional exemption to ICMR to study the feasibility of using drones for vaccine delivery and not the body is seeking companies tender capable of operating UAVs beyond visual line of sight and cover distance of at least 100 m altitude and distance upto 35 kms.

The UAVs have to be capable of carrying a minimum 4 kg payload and adhere to civil Aviation and DGCA’s safety standards. Current rules stipulate that drone operators can operate UAVs only within line of sight. While parachute-based deliveries were not preferred. About 20 consortia of vaccines have already been picked by the Ministry for experimental BVLOS operations, without getting clearance to carry out these operations as yet. SpiceJet, Skylark Drone & Swiggy, Dunzo Air Consortium, Throttle Aerospace Systems, ClearSky Flight Consortium, Virginia Tech India are some of the drones.

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. According to industry experts, participation of drones will scale up the process and helpful from an economic perspective as well as drone pilots can operate UAVs in different regions by being in any region. This is more useful for time-sensitive deliveries.

Flipkart in this regard said that it will utilise learnings from the tech-enabled supply chain to deliver the supplies. The pilot project will be conducted for six days during which testing for delivery of thousands of vaccine vails will be conducted keeping safety standards in mind.

The World Economic Forum and Healthnet Global Limited have conceived the “Medicines from Sky” project that was adopted by the Telangana government to do last-minute vaccine delivery to areas where road connectivity is not conducive and integrate it with the state’s healthcare supply chain.

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