Logistics giant Blue Dart is set to Flag off testing of drone delivery systems under its new entity, Blue Dart Med-Express Consortium. The development comes after the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Director-General of Civil Aviation gave Telangana permission to use unmanned drones with the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
Recently, the nodal ministry had allowed Swiggy, Dunzo and ShopX among other companies to carry out 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.
Balfour Manuel, Managing Director, Blue Dart said, “As an organisation Blue Dart has always been surrounded with the technology of the future. It is this ability that has helped us to not only withstand the pandemic but thrive with growth. While we reach out to over 35,000 locations across the country, the current situation calls for much deeper penetration of vaccines.”
The approval is a key step in startups and other companies using drones for long-haul flights such as the delivery of medicines, vaccines, food and other items.
While Blue Dart becomes the first private company to operate drones for the purpose of payload deliveries, however, it will not be permitted to use drones for commercial purposes.
The Telangana government, World Economic Forum and HealthNet Global, had signed a collaboration agreement for the ‘Medicine from the Sky’ project, for which they have been granted this exemption from the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021.
Blue Dart is one of the eight companies that were shortlisted to participate in the implementation of drones for delivering medical goods.
The ministry’s permission earlier limited drone operations to within visual range, but due to the ongoing pandemic, delivery of medicines and Covid-related relief materials are now allowed through operations beyond the visual range.
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 medicine.
Similar testing processes have begun in other states as well. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) 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.