India’s first medical drone delivery trials

Issue: 3 / 2021

India’s first official beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) medical drone delivery experiment is scheduled to begin late June 2021 in Gauribidanur, 80 km from Bengaluru. While the consortium of firms led by Throttle Aerospace Systems (TAS) located at Bengaluru, had got Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) approval for object delivery experiments as early as in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to delays in some other permissions from agencies. Having now secured all clearances, the firm will carry out the first set of trials for up to 45 days, beginning June 18, 2021. Noted cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Shetty has backed the trials and Narayana Health will be partnering with the consortium, providing medicines that will be used for transport during the trials.

Nagendran Kandasamy, CEO, TAS, said, “Two other consortia also have permission for BVLOS experiments, but ours is the first legal/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.” Aside from TAS, the consortium has Involi-Swiss, which specialises in air traffic awareness systems for professional drone applications, which is providing unmanned traffic management systems, and Honeywell Aerospace as a safety expert. The consortium will use two variants of its drone — MedCOPTER and TAS’ on-demand delivery software called RANDINT during the experiment.

“The smaller variant of MedCOPTER can carry one kg for up to 15 km, while the other can carry two kg for up to 12 km. We will be testing both for range and safety through the 45-day trial during which we have to fly for at least 100 hours as per DGCA. We are aiming to fly around 125 hours,” Kandasamy said.