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New rules expedite Telangana’s project to deliver medicines via drones

The project has received the final regulatory nod from the Civil Aviation Ministry for carrying out drone trials.

Courtesy: DFI

Months after the proposed beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operation of the Telangana government’s ‘Medicine from Sky’ Project seemingly got caught in limbo due to lack of permissions, the new and regulation-relaxed Drone Rules 2021 has finally given a fillip to the project. The initiative is now set for a re-launch, this time with BVLOS operations, on September 11, said Telangana’s Minister for IT and Industries KT Rama Rao.

The Telangana government in a press release said that the project has received the final regulatory nod from the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) to conduct the operations. “Ahead of the launch, three of the eight selected consortia namely Bluedart Med Express Consortium (Skye Air), Hepicopter Consortium (Marut Drones), and CurisFly Consortium (TechEagle Innovations) have already reached Vikarabad and have started testing of their drones via VLOS and BVLOS flights,” the release said. The launch shall be conducted at the Police Parade Ground near the SP Office of Vikarabad District.

It is important to note that in May this year, the Ministry of Civil Aviation granted the Telangana government exemption from the now-replaced Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules 2021 and granted permission for conducting beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations. Based on the exemption, it was decided that trials will be held in June. However, it turned out that the government could not proceed with the drone trials because it had not received an additional exemption from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Instead, the government ended up conducting a safety workshop for the medicine delivery programme.

Now, no need of further permission and SOP: sources

Sources told MediaNama that the new Drone Rules, 2021 which is far more relaxed in terms of regulatory practices and permissions when compared to the UAS Rules 2021, is in place, it has done away with the need of obtaining an exemption from MHA. “Since the flight will be in a designated green zone, there will be no need for further permissions,” a source said.

No permission required for operating drones in green zones. Green zone means the airspace upto a vertical distance of 400 feet or 120 metre that has not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone in the airspace map; and the airspace upto a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 metre above the area located between a lateral distance of 8 and 12 kilometre from the perimeter of an operational airport — Drone Rules 2021

Earlier, when the UAS Rules 2021 were in place, it was also mandatory to have an SOP that has been approved by the Directorate General Civil Aviation for all drone technology partners.

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Telangana passed safety workshop for medicine delivery

In June, the Telangana government successfully completed a virtual hazard identification and risk mitigation (HIRM) workshop that was held to ensure that the State’s medicine delivery through drones operations are conducted safely and securely, a press release by the Telangana government said.

  • The workshop explored potential hazards and mitigation strategies during the upcoming trials by discussing the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA ) of the flights in the Vikarabad airspace.
  • The CONOPS included a detailed description of operations, various system checks, communication protocols, daily flight planning, roles & responsibilities of both crew and officials, etc., to ensure smooth conduct of the trials.
  • The SORA methodology of Joint Authorities for Rule-making on Unmanned Systems (JARUS), a group of experts from 63 countries including India, was followed to quantify both the ground and air risk.
  • A final Specific Assurance and Integrity Levels (SAIL) score of ‘II’ was calculated on combining the quantified risks and accounting for strategic and tactical mitigations. A SAIL score of ‘II’ on a scale of ‘VI’ indicates low risk.

Multiple consortia involved in the project

Around seven consortia comprising logistics companies and drone operators have partnered with the Telangana government for the project.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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