Drones could soon be used for delivering COVID-19 vaccines in remote and hard to reach geographies in the country. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has invited expression of interest from drone operators to “develop a delivery model”.
ICMR’s Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Dr. Samiran Panda said the aim was to develop a model through a pilot project that could be emulated and adopted by the State governments. The ICMR had conducted a feasibility study in collaboration with the IIT-Kanpur.
“We need smart vaccination instead of mass vaccination to stem an epidemic. For this, we need to focus not only on areas where the infection is intense but also on places where there are indications that the test positivity rate is still low and that if you saturate the priority groups there through innovative vaccine delivery mechanism, you can stop a surge. This is known as ring-fencing,” Dr. Panda told The Hindu.
The tender document lays down the technical specifications required, which include the ability of drones to fly “beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS)”, carry a payload of up to 4 kg and cover a distance of up to 35 km.
While government rules now permit only those drone operations that are within visual range, the ICMR project comes at a time the Ministry of Civil Aviation has allowed 20 entities to conduct trials for long-range or “beyond visual line of sight” drone flights.
Govt to frame norms
ICMR has invited expression of interest from drone operators to “develop a delivery model” for using drones to deliver COVID-19 vaccines in remote and hard to reach areas in the country.
The tender document lays down the technical specifications required, which include the ability of drones to fly “beyond visual line of sight [BVLOS]”.