Indian gov't invites bids for delivering COVID-19 vaccines, drugs through drones to remote areas

NEW DELHI, June 13 (Xinhua) -- The Indian government would soon be delivering COVID-19 vaccines and drugs by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in areas with difficult terrains, officials said Sunday.

A health worker inoculates a woman with the dose of the Covishield Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine during a vaccination drive at a shopping mall in Siliguri on June 12, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

HLL Infra Tech Services Limited, a subsidiary of state-owned HLL Lifecare which is procuring all COVID-19 vaccines in the country for the government, has on behalf of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) invited an expression of interest (EOI) for delivery of medical supplies (vaccines/drugs) by UAVs at selected locations in India.

The EOI has been issued on Friday and the last date of the bid submission has been fixed as June 22.

Reports said an Indian e-commerce major Flipkart has partnered with the local government of Telangana to lead a consortium tasked with the development and execution of the drone deliveries of medical supplies to remote areas under the "Medicines from the Sky" project. The pilot project, which is expected to be conducted for over six days, will be tested out for delivering thousands of COVID-19 vaccines in Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana, while keeping in mind all safety and efficiency parameters.

UAVs have been sought by ICMR which can travel up to 35 km with the supplies and fly at an altitude of at least 100 meters.

As per specifications spelled out by the Center, the UAV should take off vertically, carry a minimum payload of four kg and should be capable of returning home or the command station after delivery of the payload. "Take off and landing will be as per DGCA guidelines. Parachute-based delivery will not be preferred," the document says, adding the UAV must land safely with the vaccines.

Senior officials said with the vaccination exercise spreading far and wide to rural areas, it is anticipated that supply of vaccines to mountainous regions and remote areas could become a challenge.

At present the third phase of vaccination is being carried out in India. According to the health ministry, so far over 253 million COVID-19 jabs have been administered.