‘Medicine from the Sky,’ which is a drone delivery initiative of medicines in the remote area, is soon to be a reality as Throttle Aerospace Systems (TAS) will commence the first round of trials for India’s first official Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) on June 18 in Gauribidanur, 80km from Bengaluru.
The `Medicine from the Sky’ project was launched in late 2019 in partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF). The expression of interest (EOI) that was released during the Centre and Telangana government’s joint biennial aviation event, Wings 2020 for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) unmanned vehicle (UAV) delivery of essential commodities, especially medicines.
Earlier the government of India had constituted the ‘BVLOS Experiment Assessment and Monitoring (BEAM) Committee in 2019 to invite expression of interest (EoI) to undertake BVLOS experimental flights of drones. The committee received 34 EoIs, of which the above-20 were selected and TAS is one among them.
These 20 companies were granted conditional approval and exemption from the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) 2021 Rules. This conditional exemption was valid for 1 year or until further notification by the ministry. Later, Throttle Aerospace Systems (TAS) had gained approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for object delivery testing as early as March 2020. However, the pandemic has stalled a few other permissions from agencies.
Besides TAS, the consortium has Involi-Swiss, which specializes in air traffic awareness systems for professional drone applications, which is providing unmanned (UTM) systems, and Honeywell Aerospace as a safety expert.
Nagendran Kandasamy, CEO, TAS said, “Two other consortia also have permission for BVLOS experiments, but ours is the first legal or official medical drone delivery experiment. We have come a long way since 2016 and are at a pivotal moment.”
“After a long wait, we now have an official go-ahead from the BVLOS Experiment Monitoring Committee (BEMC) and we look forward to leveraging commercial drone delivery in India soon,” he added.
This is going to be a 45-day pilot study from June 18 onwards, which if yields result, then like America and China, the Indian state of Karnataka will also supply emergency medicines via drones. Bengaluru-based TAS company will use the technology for which they have partnered with Dr. Devi Shetty, who will supply medicines through his Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital for this purpose.
As per reports, a patient and his family have to raise the request on software developed by TAS. After examining the claims, the medicines will be loaded into the drones by the hospital. 4G technology will be used to operate the drone. This drone can fly and manage to avoid trees, buildings, and towers. It can also withstand gusty winds and reach the desired location. The pilot study is being conducted to ascertain the nature of medicines that will be delivered.
During the project, the consortium will employ two variants of its drone — ‘MedCOPTER’ and TAS’ on-demand delivery software called ‘RANDINT’. According to Nagendran Kandaswamy, CEO, TAS, the smaller variant of MedCOPTER can carry 1kg for up to 15km, while the other one can carry 2 kg for up to 12km. They will test both range and safety for 30-45 days, during which they must fly for a minimum of 100 hours as required by the DGCA. They are aiming to fly for approximately 125 hours.