Conditional exemption granted for drone flights for vaccine delivery
IANS (File photo)

Conditional exemption granted for drone flights for vaccine delivery

New Delhi, May 9, 2021

The Government has granted a conditional exemption for experimental drone flights for vaccine delivery to assist the nation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) & Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) granted the conditional exemption to the Government of Telangana for conducting experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights for delivery of vaccines. The exemption has been granted from Unmanned Aircraft System {UAS) Rules, 2021, an official press release said.

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 one year from the date of approval of the SOP or until further orders, whichever is earlier.

Last month, Telangana was granted a 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). The trials may commence by end of May 2021.

Earlier, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) was granted conditional exemption last month for conducting a feasibility study of Covid-19 vaccine delivery using drones in collaboration with IIT Kanpur.

The grant of these permissions is intended to achieve the dual objectives of faster vaccine delivery and improved healthcare access by ensuring primary healthcare delivery at the citizen’s doorstep, limiting human exposure to COVID-congested or COVID-prone areas through aerial delivery, ensuring access to health care to the last mile, especially in remote areas, possible integration into the middle mile of medical logistics for long-range drones and improving the medical supply chain, with millions of doses to be transported across India.

One of the conditions for conducting experimental BVLOS drone flights for delivery of vaccines by Telangana is that the maximum permitted height for drone operations is 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL). It further says that an Energy reserve of 15% of flight time should be provisioned for.

Another condition states that the State Government should post a Single Point Coordinator (SPC) at Shamshabad ATC for the entire duration of the trial flights to ensure smooth coordination with ATC.

The conditions further mention that drone operations shall be limited between local sunrise and local sunset. It is stated that Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) should prevail at take-off and landing sites. Further, the condition is that weather limitations stipulated by the drone manufacturer shall be complied with.

The conditions specify some requirements to be satisfied for drones used for BVLOS trial flights. Upon completion of the trials, the Government should submit a detailed Proof of Concept to MoCA and DGCA, the release added.

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