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Experimental drone flights allowed for vaccine delivery

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The government is providing a conditional exemption for experimental drone flights for vaccine delivery as part of a constant endeavour to enhance the scope of drone usage in the country and assist the nation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) & Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have granted a conditional exemption to the government of Telangana for conducting experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights for delivery of vaccines.

An exemption has been granted from Unmanned Aircraft System {UAS) Rules, 2021. This exemption is subject to complete adherence to the conditions and the directions/ exemptions issued (or to be issued in the future) by MoCA. It will be valid for one year from the date of approval of the SOP or until further orders, whichever is earlier.

Last month, the Telangana government was granted a conditional exemption for conducting experimental delivery of COVID-19 vaccines within the Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) Range using drones.

To accelerate the drone deployment process to formulate application-based models, the grant has been extended to Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). The trials may commence by end of May 2021.

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 the medical supply chain, with millions of doses to be transported across India.

One of the conditions for conducting experimental BVLOS drone flights for delivery of vaccines by the government of Telangana is that the maximum permitted height for drone operations is 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL).

The conditions further mention that Drone operations shall be limited between local sunrise and local sunset. It is stated that Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) should prevail at take-off and landing sites. Further, the condition is that weather limitations stipulated by the drone manufacturer shall be complied with. It is further stated in the conditions that upon completion of the trials, the Government of Telangana shall submit a detailed Proof of Concept to MoCA and DGCA.

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