Remote PHC in Anekal gets Covid vax supplies via drones

NOV 15, 2021

On Saturday, a remote primary health centre in Anekal taluk, Bengaluru Urban district, received a consignment of Covid-19 vaccines through a tried and tested method of delivery — via drones.

The delivery was made by a new octocopter drone developed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), which is capable of hefting a 15-kg payload over 24 km.

The machine took off in the morning from the Chandapura primary health centre (PHC) with 50 vials of Covid-19 vaccines along with syringes (total of six kilograms along with ice). Its destination was Haragadde PHC, about seven kilometres to the southwest.

In a statement, NAL said the drone took off from Chandapura at 9.43 am and landed at Haragadde at 9.53 am.

“The octocopter flew at an altitude of 300 metres at a speed of 10 metres per second and covered an aerial distance of about seven km in about 10 minutes. After delivery of vaccines at Haragadde, the octocopter returned to the Chandapura PHC. The entire mission covered a distance of about 14 km in 20 minutes, including delivery of vaccines,” NAL said.

This represents a significant turnaround time, according to Dr Manisha, the taluk’s medical health officer. She said usually it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to deliver vaccines to Haragadde from Chandapura by road.

Dr K Srinivas, health officer, Bengaluru Urban district, told DH that the technology would have been a boon during the peak of the vaccine drive several months ago, when its use could have facilitated supplies of doses to remote locations, especially in Kodagu and Uttara Kannada districts.

“With this kind of technology, we could have ensured that remote villages got regular vaccine supplies. We still require it to complete the administration of the second doses,” he said. Srinivas said Saturday’s delivery was part of a pilot project.

“NAL is working with a private firm to deploy such drones in larger numbers, but it will take some time,” he said.

Dr P V Satyanarayana Murthy, head of NAL’s UAV programme concurred.

“NAL has already tied up with private firms for drone manufacturing and offering operational services,” he said.

NAL said its indigenously developed medium-class, beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone is made out of a lightweight carbon fiber foldable structure.

It is said to possess autonomous guidance through a dual redundant MEMS-based digital autopilot system.

The machine has a hovering endurance of 40 minutes. It can fly at an operational altitude of 500 metres and maximum flying speed of 36 kmph.

Its avionics suite includes geo-fencing and digital sky with 360 degree collision-avoidance.