Centre permits Telangana govt to use drones for experimental delivery of COVID-19 vaccines
The Civil Aviation Ministry has permitted the Telangana government to use drones for experimental delivery of vaccines using beyond the visual line of sight drone flights.
India has been hit hard by a second wave of the novel coronavirus infection, and hospitals in several states are reeling under a severe shortage of vaccines, oxygen, drugs, medical equipment, and beds.
On April 30, the ministry had permitted the Telangana government to use drones for experimental delivery of COVID-19 vaccines within the visual line of sight.
In a statement, the ministry said it has granted a conditional exemption to the Telangana government from the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021, for "conducting experimental delivery of vaccines" using drones. The trials may commence by the end of May, it added.
On April 22, the ministry had permitted the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to conduct a feasibility study on using drones to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine.
The official statement noted that the development is aimed at achieving dual objectives of faster vaccine delivery and improved healthcare access by ensuring primary healthcare delivery at the citizen’s doorstep. Aerial delivery will also help in limiting human exposure to COVID-19 prone areas and will ensure access to healthcare to the last mile, especially in remote areas.
However, one of the conditions for the trial remains the maximum permitted height for drone operations to be at 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL). The state government also needs to establish a Single Point Coordinator (SPC) at Shamshabad ATC to ensure coordination with ATC during the flight trials.
The health ministry said that cumulatively 16,49,73,058 vaccine doses have been administered through 24,11,300 sessions across India as per the provisional report till 7 am.
With a record of 4,14,188 new coronavirus infections reported in a span of 24 hours, India's total tally of COVID-19 cases climbed to 2,14,91,598 on Friday, while the count of active cases crossed the 36 lakh mark, according to the health ministry.
The death toll has increased to 2,34,083 with 3,915 fatalities being reported in a day, the data uploaded by the ministry showed.
[Additional information has been added for context]