Hyperlocal delivery app Dunzo is all set to pilot drone-based deliveries of medicines in Telangana state through a partnership with the Government of Telangana and the World Economic Forum.
The development comes after the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Director-General of Civil Aviation gave Telangana permission to use unmanned drones for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and medicines.
Dunzo said in a statement that it is working alongside a consortium of industry experts to conduct experimental drone flight operations in India beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS). BVLOS operations are remotely piloted beyond the line of sight of the remote operator.
The drone delivery pilot aims to serve different districts in the state of Telangana for medical supplies and will focus on an end-to-end ecosystem for drone-based logistic transportation and utilise the existing logistics network of the state.
The Telangana government has partnered with the World Economic Forum, Niti Aayog, and HealthNet Global for ‘Medicine from the Sky’ with the support of leaders in medicine, technology, and research. Apart from Dunzo, Logistics giant Blue Dart also recently flagged-off testing of drone delivery systems under its new entity, Blue Dart Med-Express Consortium.
Commenting on the initiative Kabeer Biswas, CEO, and Founder, Dunzo Digital said that the pilot will allow it to meet the urgent demand for medical essentials.
“Using (drone) technology we can now ensure that no matter where people live, life-saving essentials can and should reach them. We believe our participation in the ‘Medicine from the Sky’ project will facilitate a more connected state and country, allowing people almost instantaneous access to vaccines and medicines from the most populous to most remote areas in India in the near future,” Biswas added.
The Telangana Government’s approval is a key step to enable startups and other companies to use drones for long-haul flights such as the delivery of medicines, vaccines, food and other items.
While Dunzo and Blue Dart are currently the first few private companies to operate drones for the purpose of payload deliveries, they however will not be permitted to use drones for commercial purposes. Dunzo and Blue Dart are one of the eight companies that were shortlisted to participate in the implementation of drones for delivering medical goods.
According to the Drone Federation of India, the tests will assess the viability of drones in improving medical supply chains. The test would include studying drone-based deliveries for blood, vaccines, medical samples and long-tail medicines.
Several state governments have made use of drones to provide contactless delivery of essential medicines and other life-saving commodities in Covid-affected areas.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that was collaborating with IIT Kanpur was also permitted to test drones for vaccine delivery. ISRO too had commissioned a test of drones by Garuda Aerospace to deliver medicines and essentials in the locality that houses the institution’s staff in Andhra Pradesh.
However, despite the demand of several ecommerce and food delivery companies, the government has not allowed the usage of drones for commercial purposes by private sector companies in India.
After a wait of two years, when the government came out with The Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021, it disappointed the likes of Zomato, Swiggy, Dunzo and many other startups that have been waiting for approval to make deliveries through unmanned drones.