Representative image (Source: AFP)
The much-awaited trials of delivering medicines and vaccines using drones are set to begin from Thursday under the Telangana government's ambitious 'Medicine From The Sky' project, according to a statement released on Wednesday.
The trial flights will be conducted from September 9 to October 10 at Vikarabad (Hyderabad), and a majority of them will be by tech start-up Skye Air Mobility, said the statement.
This will make Telangana the first state in the country to start trials of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights for delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, it said.
BVLOS drone flights are those that go beyond 500-700 metres from the eye's vision or beyond the visual line of sight.
Skye Air is part of a consortium for the project. It has joined hands with BlueDart Express to provide drone based-delivery and drone flights to conduct these trials. Skye Air focuses on an end-to-end ecosystem for drone-based logistics transportation.
The Medicine From The Sky (MFTS) project's first two days of trials will be flying in the visual line of sight, which involves drones flying between 500 and 700 meters from the base and they can be seen with the naked eye, it said.
From September 11 onwards, BVLOS drone flights will take place for 9-10 km distances. These flights will be with consignments of vaccines, medical samples and other healthcare items, the statement said.
Skye Air Mobility co-founder Swapnik Jakkampundi said, "We are extremely delighted to be part of this project with the Telangana government and (with) our tie-up with leading firms to give the first live demonstration trials, which are being conducted in real-time with real vaccines and medicines being carried."
The key elements that were deterrents in the sector for a long period are now in favour of this development, he said adding that the delivery by drone will be a game-changer.
"This move is in sync with our endeavours at a transformational change in rural and remote areas by helping make instant access to vital medical supplies," he added.
Blue Dart Managing Director Balfour Manuel said that while India is focusing on achieving 100 per cent vaccination, the current situation calls for much deeper penetration of vaccines, especially in remote areas. "Delivery of vaccination through drones would be a stepping stone to achieve this goal."
As per the expression of interest, Skye Air will have two certified remote pilots who have been specifically trained for the BVLOS trials during the project, said the statement.