NAL’s Octacopter drone successfully delivers COVID-19 vaccines to remote Karnataka village

Published : November 13, 2021 17:50 IST

The Octacopter delvering COVID-19 vaccines to Haragadde PHC on the outskirts of Bengaluru on November 13. Photo: PTI

The latest entrant in the market for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) is the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a constituent of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Christened the “Octacopter”, NAL’s lightweight UAV can be utilised for the last-mile delivery of medicines, vaccines, food products, letters and parcels, and the transportation of human organs. The versatile Octacopter can also be used for applications such as agricultural pesticide spraying, crop monitoring, mining surveys, and magnetic geo-survey mapping.

Having received conditional permission from the Ministry of Civil Aviation for BVLoS flight trials, NAL teamed up with the Karnataka Department of Health and Family Welfare for the aerial delivery of a batch of COVID-19 vaccines and syringes between primary health centres (PHCs) located in two villages on Bengaluru’s outskirts. The Octacopter successfully delivered 50 vials of COVID-19 vaccines along with syringes in a special container from Chandapura PHC to Haragadde PHC on November 13.

After the delivery of the vaccines at Haragadde, the Octacopter returned to Chandapura PHC. The entire mission, covering about 14 km, was accomplished in 20 minutes. It usually takes about 30 to 40 minutes if the exercise is undertaken by road.

Emboldened by the successful aerial delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines, NAL is offering their indigenously developed, Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLoS) multi-copter UAV for similar and related aerial operational services.

According to Dr P.V. Satyanaraya Murthy, Head, UAV, CSIR-NAL, the Octacopter was “perfectly designed for such missions and could be easily operated by unskilled operators”. NAL, he said, has already tied up with private firms for drone manufacturing and offering operational services.

The Octacopter can carry a payload of 15 kg, has a hovering endurance of 40 minutes and can fly at an operational altitude of 500 m above ground level with a maximum flying speed of 36 kmph. It is also equipped with digital autopilot with advanced flight instrumentation systems. Its regulatory compliance includes the Directorate General of Civil Aviation-No Permission, No Takeoff (DGCA-NPNT) clearance, geo-fencing and digital sky with a 360-degree collision avoidance system, making it one of the best in its class.

As reported in Frontline, Telangana, on September 11, had broken new ground with its “Medicine from the Sky” initiative. The project has multiple drone consortiums participating in it.

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