The drone delivered 50 vials of Covid-19 vaccine along with syringes in a special container from Chandapura PHC to Haragadde PHC. CSIR-NAL’s octocopter, an unmanned aerial vehicle, had a vaccine carrier weighing 5kg and took off from Chandapura PHC at 9.43am. It arrived at Haragadde PHC at 9.53am. It was flown at an altitude of 300m above ground level at a speed of 10mps (metres per second) and covered an aerial distance of about 7km in 10 minutes.
After the delivery of vaccines at Haragadde, the octocopter returned to Chandapura PHC. The entire mission covered a distance of 14km in 20 mins.
The ministry of civil aviation had granted conditional permission to CSIR-NAL for conducting Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight trials. “NAL’s octocopter can carry a payload of 15kg with hovering endurance of 40 minutes. It can fly at an operational altitude of 500m above ground level and at maximum flying speed of 36kmph,” said a release from the lab. The drone is made of lightweight carbon fibre with foldable structure.
PV Satyanarayana Murthy, head of UAV, CSIR-NAL, said using the octocopter for delivery was much-needed in the country for deeper vaccine penetration in remote areas. “The UAV was actually designed for agricultural purposes. It can carry a payload of 20kg. Looking at the pandemic situation, we wanted to see if we could use it for vaccine delivery. We have used a UAV to deliver vaccines for the first time,” he said. He added drone delivery of vaccines can be scaled up in other places if states approach NAL.
“The NAL octocopter is perfectly designed for such a mission and is easy to operate. NAL has already tied up with private firms for drone manufacture and is offering operational services,” said the release.
‘May be more useful in hills’
Srinivas SG, district health officer, Bengaluru Urban, said drone delivery of vaccines saves time and human resources. “To deliver the vaccine carrier by road, it would have taken a minimum of 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic. The device may be more useful in the hilly areas of Kodagu and Uttara Kannada districts,” he said.
The NAL octocopter can be used for a variety of BVLOS applications for last-mile delivery of medicines, vaccines, food, postal packets and human organs. It can also be used for spraying pesticide, monitoring crops, and for mining survey and magnetic geo-survey mapping, the release said.