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Trial run for delivering medicines via drones successful: Civil Aviation Ministry

Drone

The project marked India’s first official beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) medical drone delivery experiment even as another drone trial for delivering vaccines awaits approval in Telangana.

A trial run by Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) for drone delivery of medicines was successfully completed in Bengaluru on the 20th of August, the Ministry of Civil Aviation tweeted. According to the ministry, the trial run was led by Throttle Aerospace Systems (TAS) under the supervision of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). 

BVLOS drone operations are when pilots can operate a drone remotely, without the need to continuously be within visual range of the drone, whereas in Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) operations, the pilot of the drone has to maintain continuous, unaided visual contact with the unmanned aircraft.

The trial run was conducted within a 15-km radius of Gauribidanur taluk, some 80 km from Bengaluru. Such trial runs assume importance as they will determine whether drones can be used to deliver life-saving drugs and medicines in far-flung areas with improper road connectivity or in dense urban settings during times of crisis. Currently, there are trials taking place in Telangana for the delivery of vaccines as well. 

More details about the Bengaluru trial run

According to a report by NewsMinute, the trial run for this project began in the month of June. As per the report, the project got delayed due to pandemic-induced permission problems from different agencies despite the DGCA approving the project back in March. 

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The trial saw two different models of MedCOPTER drones being put to use, MedCOPTER X4 and MedCOPTER X8. The smaller MedCopter drone has the capacity to deliver a payload of up to 1 kg and has a range of 15 km whereas the other model can carry up to 2 kg and can travel up to 12 km. 

A delivery software called RANDINT was used to assist the designated drones. 

During the trials, it was observed that an average of 3.5 km was covered by the drones in five to seven minutes. Along with the weight of the package and the distance of the deliveries, the modes of deliveries were also tested. The two modes being lowering the package so that the customer can collect it and landing the drone to drop off the package.

Other drone trials and acquisitions 

  • Telangana Government’s partnership for vaccine and medical delivery: The Telangana government has launched an initiative called ‘Medicine from the Sky’ in partnership with World Economic Forum, NITI Aayog, and HealthNet Global. The project entails undertaking experimental BVLOS drone flights for delivery of vaccines using the identified airspace of Vikarabad district. While the Ministry of Civil Aviation granted Telangana government exemption from the UAS Rules 2021, it has also received approval from the Airports Authority of India (AA), the final approval from Home Ministry is still awaited.
  • Indian Army Acquiring AI-Equipped High Altitude UAVs And Swarm Drones For Attack Operations: Medianama, in an exclusive report, had found that the Indian army had floated two tenders to acquire artificial intelligence-equipped drones that can be deployed during attacks. The drones were believed to be used for training and R&D purposes for army personnel. This was done after there were reports of a terror attack taking place at an air force base in Jammu with the use of drones which led to two IAF personnel suffering minor injuries in the explosion.

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