Hyderabad: The state of Telangana is the first in country to undertake a trial run for distributing vaccines via drone to healthcare facilities in distant locations.
On Thursday, the state government’s ‘Medicine from the Sky’ initiative launched a two-day trial run of drones in Vikarabad town.
The trial run at the parade ground was officially launched by Vikarabad District Collector K. Nikhila.
Boxes weighing 2-3 kg lifted off from the Vikarabad district hospital, flying to a height of up to 400 feet, for basic healthcare centres at 500 metres distance.
“This is the first time in India that a trial run is being conducted to use drone technology to deliver vaccines or medicines to remote areas,” she said.
The three-phase trial will see six flights a day, with each drone carrying 175 vaccines in temperature-controlled boxes.
The project will be formally launched on September 11 by Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Telangana Industries and Information Technology Minister K.T. Rama Rao.
The ‘Medicine from the Sky’ is an initiative of the Telangana government, spearheaded by the Emerging Technologies Wing of the ITE&C Department, in partnership with World Economic Forum, NITI Aayog, and HealthNet Global (Apollo Hospitals).
The project entails undertaking experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights for delivery of vaccines using the identified airspace of the Vikarabad district.
The project has received the final regulatory nod from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Three of the eight selected consortia, namely Bluedart Med Express Consortium (Skye Air), Hepicopter Consortium (Marut Drones), and CurisFly Consortium (TechEagle Innovations), have already reached Vikarabad and have started testing of their drones, via VLOS and BVLOS flights.
With the launch, the consortia would continue to further test the endurance of their drones over increasing longer distances and heavier payloads to establish the reliability, officials said.
The project is first of its kind in India as it is the first organised BVLOS drone trials in the country and the same are being conducted in healthcare as the domain.
Indian drone delivery start-up firm Skye Air Mobility, which is a part of the consortium for the project, will conduct the majority of drone flights. Skye Air has joined hands with Blue Dart Express to provide drone-based delivery and drone flights to conduct these trials.
The first two days of the MFTS Project testing will involve flying in the visual line of sight, which means drones flying 500 to 700 metres from the base and being visible with the naked eye.
BVLOS drone flights over 9-10 kilometre range will begin on September 11. These planes will carry vaccination, medical samples, and other healthcare supplies.
“We are extremely delighted to be a part of this project with the Telangana government and our tie-up with leading firms to give the first live demonstration trials which are being conducted in real time with real vaccines & medicines being carried,” Skye Air Mobility Co-Founder Swapnik Jakkampundi said. (IANS)