Telangana government to deploy drones for faster delivery of COVID-19 vaccine doses

Published : May 01, 2021 14:43 IST

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao. Photo: The Hindu Archives

The Telangana government has successfully secured the requisite permission to deploy drones for faster and and experimental delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

With nearly 80,000 active COVID-19 cases, a daily count that is growing at an alarming rate, and facing a barrage of criticism over its handling of the COVID-19 crisis, K. Chandrashekhar Rao was one of the first Chief Ministers to announce a free COVID-19 vaccination programme for all residents of a State. The vaccination programme covering all the four crore residents of the State is expected to cost the State government Rs.2,500 crore. Until the end of day on April 30, Telangana had administered 47,59,013 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. But mass vaccine distribution, especially in rural areas, involves logistic difficulties. Hence the experimental delivery of COVID-19 vaccines by drones.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) granting conditional permission for drone deployment to the Government of Telangana will, it is hoped, translate into a faster vaccine delivery and improved healthcare access. The permission to use drones has been granted for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) range. It is valid for a period of one year or until further orders and only if all conditions and limitations as stated for drone deployment and the purpose of deployment are strictly adhered to.

A statement from the MoCA said: “Trials will also assist in assessing conditions such as population, degree of isolation, geography etc to identify regions that specifically require drone deliveries.” It said that that earlier this month, a similar permission was granted to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for conducting a feasibility study of COVID-19 vaccine delivery using drones in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.

The statement further added that the grant of these permissions was 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 healthcare to the last mile, especially in remote areas; possible integration into the middle mile of medical logistics for long-range drones and improving the medical supply chain, especially with a third vaccine expected to be commissioned and millions of doses to be transported across India.