The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) granted a conditional exemption for drone deployment to the Telangana government on April 30.
The Telangana government has been allowed to use drones only for conducting experimental delivery of COVID-19 vaccines within the Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) range.
The permission has been granted by the Centre for a period of one year or until further orders and the exemptions will be valid only if the state abides by all conditions and limitations laid down for the respective entities.
The Aviation Ministry has stated that these trials will help in determining conditions -- such as population, geography -- to identify regions that need drone deliveries.
Earlier this month, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) was also granted permission to use drones for COVID-19 vaccine delivery as part of a feasibility study it is carrying out in collaboration with IIT Kanpur.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
By granting these permissions, the Centre hopes to achieve the dual objectives of faster vaccine delivery and improved healthcare access by:
Ensuring primary healthcare delivery at citizen’s doorstep.
Limiting human exposure to COVID-19 congested or COVID-19 prone areas through aerial delivery.
Ensuring access to health care to the last mile, especially in remote areas.
Possible integration into the middle mile of medical logistics for long-range drones.
Improving medical supply chain, especially with a third vaccine expected to be commissioned and millions of doses to be transported across India.