Telangana became the first state in the country to launch a trial run for delivering vaccines by drones to healthcare centres in remote areas.
The two-day trial run of drones under the state government’s ‘Medicine from the Sky’ project began on Thursday in Vikarabad town.
Vikarabad District Collector K. Nikhila formally inaugurated the trial run in the parade ground.
Boxes weighing 2-3 kgs took off from the Vikarabad district hospital for primary healthcare centres 500 metres away, flying to an altitude of up to 400 feet.
“This is the first time in India that 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.
MFTS Project’s first two days of the trials will be flying in the visual line of sight, which involves drones flying between 500 to 700 meters from the base and they can be seen with the naked eye.
From September 11 onwards, BVLOS drone flights will take place for 9-10 km distances. These flights will be with consignments of vaccine, medical samples, and other healthcare items.
“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.