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New Delhi: Days after it allowed 20 entities, including Spicejet and Dunzo Air Consortium, to conduct Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) experimental flights of drones, the central government on Saturday granted conditional exemption to the Telangana government for deployment of drone to conduct experimental delivery of covid-19 vaccines.

"The Government is providing conditional exemption for experimental drone flights for vaccine delivery as part of constant endeavour to enhance the scope of drone usage in the country and assist the nation to fight COVID-19 pandemic. Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have granted conditional exemption to the Government of Telangana for conducting experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights for delivery of vaccines," MoCA said in a statement.

"Last month, the Government of Telangana was granted conditional exemption for conducting experimental delivery of Covid-19 vaccines within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) Range using drones," it said adding that the grant has been extended to BVLOS to accelerate the drone deployment process to formulate application-based models.

The trials for this are likely to commence from the end of May 2021.

The first stage for drone deployment requires drones to remain in the line of sight of the operator at all times. If the first stage is deemed successful, then the next stage of trials involve operating the drone beyond the line of sight of the operator. If these stages are successfully completed, further clearance is sought from the authorities, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

"The grant of these permissions is intended to achieve the dual objectives of faster vaccine delivery and improved healthcare access by ensuring primary healthcare delivery at the citizen’s doorstep, limiting human exposure to COVID congested or COVID prone areas through aerial delivery, ensuring access to health care to the last mile, especially in remote areas, possible integration into the middle mile of medical logistics for long range drones and improving medical supply chain, with millions of doses to be transported across India," the statement added.

One of the conditions that has to be adhered by the Telangana government for conducting experimental BVLOS drone flights for delivery of vaccines is that the maximum permitted height for drone operations remains at 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL).

The Government of Telangana will also have to post a Single Point Coordinator (SPC) at Shamshabad ATC (Air Traffic Controller) for the entire duration of the trial flights to ensure smooth coordination.

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