Hyderabad: In Vikarabad, approved vaccines will now be delivered using drones within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS), on experimental basis.
The State Government under the plan for Medicine from the Sky will utilize BVLOS flights in Vikarabad district with the Area Hospital as the take-off site and various PHCs and sub-centres as the landing sites.
The state government has already engaged the district administration to plan the on-ground operations and has also identified nodal officers to support the same.
Each drone would carry a combination of dummy vials and regular vaccines over the course of the trials and the performance would be recorded in detail and this data would be used to guide further policies regarding full-scale adoption.
The program would be taken up for 24 days, where the eight selected consortia would be divided into four batches of two consortia, and each batch would perform the sorties for six days. A week to conduct on-ground recces would also be given to all consortia before the start of the program.
Under the Telangana’s Medicine From the Sky Program, the ITE&C Department (Emerging Technologies Wing) of Government of Telangana had released its Drone Framework in 2019.
Under this initiative, the Wings 2020 event was hosted in Hyderabad, and the Government of Telangana had partnered with World Economic Forum for “Medicine from the Sky” (MFTS) program. It had released an Expression of Interest to assess the capability of drone service providers in providing safe, accurate and reliable pickup and delivery of Health care items.
Out of the 16 consortia members that had responded, eight have been shortlisted.
While, the government is still pursuing the BVLOS exemptions, the MFTS program has been approved to undertake VLOS feasibility studies for a year. With the support and guidance of MoCA and DGCA, the Government of Telangana has finally received the required approvals and exemptions to conduct these trials viz. no-objection from AAI on use of identified airspace in Vikarabad District, SOP approval for VLOS operations from DGCA, and UAS 2021 exemption from MoCA.
To fast track the above process considering the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination drive, NITI Aayog became a key partner in the journey of MFTS and convened a round on February 11, 2021 for Operationalizing Drone based Medical Deliveries across India.
This session was chaired by Members Dr. V.K. Paul and Dr. V.K. Saraswat with representatives from India’s Ministries of Defence, Civil Aviation, Health and Family Welfare, Home Affairs, State Health Secretaries, DGCA, AAI, IOs and the private sector.
Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary, Government of Telangana, quoted that Telangana was determined to leverage emerging technologies in the healthcare industry and the usage of drones ensures that primary healthcare is accessible in even the remote areas.
The Medicine from the Sky trials would yield important information on the reliability of drones and their adoption in medical deliveries, he said adding “The approval from MoCA is highly appreciated and we look forward to working with the ministry in conducting these trials in the safest manner by strict adherence to SOPs and having risk mitigation strategies in place,”
The success of this program has the potential to disrupt the healthcare industry and save many lives during emergencies and in less accessible geographies, he said.
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