Home / News / India /  Covid vaccine delivery by drones can soon be a reality; Centre invites bids

Central government has an interesting plan to tackle supply hurdles hampering Covid vaccination programme in far-flung areas of the nation. The government has invited bids for delivery of medical supplies and vaccines by drones to various parts of the country.

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), one of the premier institutions at the forefront of India's fight against coronavirus, had conducted a successful feasibility test in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.

Finding merit in the prospect, HLL Infra Tech Services, a Miniratna PSU tasked with procuring vaccines for central government, has invited bids for delivering medical supplies using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to remote locations with difficult terrain, on behalf of ICMR.

HLL Infra Tech said the objective of the venture is to develop a medical supply network using drones to ensure delivery of vaccines and other medical essentials to remote, inaccessible areas in India.

"To strengthen the delivery of vaccines, ICMR successfully conducted a feasibility study to deliver vaccines by Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in collaboration with IIT, Kanpur. Based on the preliminary results of the study, ICMR has developed a standard protocol for successful delivery of vaccines using a UAV," HLL Infra Tech said in the bid document.

"Now, based on the experience gained in the feasibility study ICMR is keen to develop a model for vaccine delivery by UAV in the field practice area to reach areas to cover last-mile coverage at difficult terrain in selected locations," it further added.

The PSU opened bids on June 11; the bids will have to be submitted online through Central Public Procurement Portal. The deadline to submit expressions of interest for this venture closes on June 22 at 1 PM. Received online bids will be opened on the same day at 1:30 PM.

ICMR will engage UAV operators to fly drones with medical supplies as payload beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and deliver them along a fixed pre-defined flight path.

"The UAV operator shall be responsible for establishing, installing, operating and maintaining UAV based system for delivery of medical supplies (vaccines/ drugs). Also, the UAV operator must adhere to safety guidelines as per the regulations by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for operating BVLOS- UAV," the bid document read.

ICMR might help selected operators in getting DGCA approval only for this activity, but a prior approval from DGCA for BVLOS will be preferred.

As per requirements of applying for the project, the drones should be able to fly for at least 35 km beyond the visual line of sight and return to command station after delivering the payload. They should be able to take-off vertically and carry a minimum load of 4 kilograms.

The operators will be engaged for a period of 90 days, which can be extended further depending upon the performance of the UAV operator and need of the programme.

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