The Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) on Saturday said that the government has provided a conditional exemption for vaccine delivery-purposed experimental drone flights to enhance drone usage scope in the country, as well as battle the coronavirus pandemic.
MoCA with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has granted the exemption to the Government of Telangana for conducting experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights for delivery of vaccines, per a statement.
The exemption, which are subject to change at MoCA’s discretion and granted from Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules 2021, is valid for a period of one year from the date of approval of the standard operating procedure or until further orders, whichever is earlier.
One of the current conditions for conducting experimental BVLOS drone flights for delivery of vaccines by Government of Telangana is that the maximum permitted height for drone operations is 400 feet above-ground-level. The energy reserve of 15% of flight time should be provisioned for.
Another condition states that the Government of Telangana shall post a Single Point Coordinator (SPC) at Shamshabad ATC for the entire duration of the trial flights to ensure smooth coordination with the air traffic control.
The conditions further mention that drone operations shall be limited between local sunrise and local sunset, with Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) requirement at take-off and landing sites, and compliance of weather limitations stipulated by the drone manufacturer.
Upon completion of the trials, the Telangana government is required to submit a detailed proof-of-concept to MoCA and DGCA. In April, the government was granted conditional exemption for conducting experimental delivery of Covid-19 vaccines within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) Range using drones.
To expedite the drone deployment process to formulate application-based models, the grant has been extended to BVLOS, with relevant trials expected to commence by end of May 2021, MoCA added in its statement.
Late April, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) was also granted conditional exemption for conducting feasibility study of Covid-19 vaccine delivery using drones in collaboration with IIT Kanpur.
“The grant of these permissions is intended to achieve the dual objectives of faster vaccine delivery and improved healthcare access by ensuring primary healthcare delivery at the citizen’s doorstep, limiting human exposure to COVID congested or COVID 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 and improving medical supply chain, with millions of doses to be transported across India,” MoCA said.