Sunday, May 16, 2021

Soon, drones to go from eye in the sky to doc on the fly

From being the ‘Eye in the Sky’ to monitor people during lockdown in Covid times, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), popularly known as drones, are now transforming into carriers of life-saving Covid-19 jabs and medical supplies to far-flung places of the world.

Even in Telangana, pilot projects are about to commence as part of efforts to devise a system for efficient transportation of vaccines and medical supplies, especially in remote areas where logistics remains a major challenge.

Telangana has recently received permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to operate drones ‘Beyond Visual Line of Sight’ (BVLOS) for its ‘Medicine from the Sky’ project for a year. The approvals come at a time when India is struggling to ramp up its Covid-19 vaccination programme.

The `Medicine from the Sky’ project was launched in late 2019 in partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF). The EoI, that was released during the Centre and Telangana government’s joint biennial aviation event, Wings 2020, to invite participants for this study, received 16 applications, of which seven were selected to undertake drone flights as part of this project.

Among the seven players, Hepicopter, Dunzo Med-Air Consortium, Airserve Initiatives and Blue Dart, among others, have received permission to start BVLOS drone flights as a pilot project and these entities are gearing up to start the trials soon.

Prem Kumar Vislawath, the co-founder & CEO of Hyderabad-based startup Hepicopter said it is the first time in India that drones will be operating BVLOS which is why they are currently customising drones for healthcare delivery-use cases.

"These drones are different from the regular ones because they carry different types of temperature controlled boxes, used for storing medical supplies, and will fly long range," he explained.

Hepicopter plans to use two drones during the pilot. Hepicopter 1.0 is a multi-rotor wing battery-powered drone with a payload capacity of 10 kg. This drone can transport four boxes at a time with each box having a capacity to carry up to 10 units of blood and over 500 doses of vaccines.

16/05/21 Swati Rathore/Times of India

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