The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) on 30 April 2021 gave the Telangana government conditional exemption from Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021, for conducting experimental delivery of vaccines using drones. The focus of Telangana’s ‘Medicine From the Sky’ (MFTS) trials, considering the ongoing COVID vaccination drive, will be on transporting vaccine vials to remote locations. The nod is for delivery within the Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) range for a year.

What

  1. The Government of Telangana had sought the exemption from UAS Rules, 2021 for the delivery of vaccines on 9th March 2021 while the DGCA accorded approval on 26th April 2021.
  2. The plan for MFTS “shall involve undertaking BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) flights in Vikarabad district of Telangana with the Area Hospital as the take-off site and various PHCs (public health centres and sub-centres as the landing sites”.
  3. Each drone would carry a combination of dummy vials and regular vaccines over the course of the trials and the performance would be recorded in detail and this data shall be used to guide further policies regarding full-scale adoption.
  4. It was during the Wings 2020 event in Hyderabad last year, the state government partnered with the World Economic Forum for the MFTS programme and had released an expression of interest (EOI) to assess the capability of drone service providers in providing safe, accurate, and reliable pickup and delivery of Health care items. Out of the 16 consortia members that had responded, 8 were shortlisted.
  5. The officials have now planned a 24-day programme where the 8 selected consortia would be divided into four batches of two consortia, and each batch would perform the sorties for six days.