CSIR-NAL’s ‘octacopter’ drone delivers Covid vaccines to Karnataka village

The advanced drone delivered 50 vials of the vaccine from Chandapura to Haragadde, covering a distance of 7 km in 10 minutes, instead of the usual 30-40 minutes.

The ‘octacopter’ drone of CSIR-NAL delivered 50 vials of Covid vaccines to a primary health centre in Karnataka’s Haragadde on Saturday. The vaccines were delivered along with syringes in a special container from Chandapura PHC. A constituent of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) has teamed up with the Karnataka Department of Health and Family Welfare for the aerial delivery of vaccines to remote areas.

“CSIR-NAL’s octacopter took off at 9.43 am from Chandapura PHC carrying Covid-19 vaccines and delivered to Haragadde PHC at 9.53 am. Octacopter flew at an altitude of 300 metres above ground level (AGL) at a speed of 10 meters/second and covered an aerial distance of 7 km in about 10 minutes. After delivery of the vaccines at Haragadde, the Octacopter returned to Chandapura PHC. The entire mission covered a distance of about 14 km in 20 minutes, including delivery of vaccines,” Dr Jitendra J Jadhav Director, CSIR-NAL, said.

Medical Officer Dr Manisha said it usually takes about 30-40 minutes to deliver vaccines to Haragadde from Chandapura by road. “The doctors at the PHCs were delighted to witness the demonstration of the fast and safe aerial delivery of vaccines,” she said.

“Octacopter developed by NAL can be used for a variety of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) applications for last-mile delivery, like medicines, vaccines, food, postal packets, human organs, etc. NAL octacopter is integrated with a powerful on-board embedded computer and latest generation sensors for versatile applications like agricultural pesticide spraying, crop monitoring, mining survey, magnetic geo survey mapping etc,” Jadhav said.

NAL has developed the indigenous, medium-class BVLOS multi-copter UAV. It is made of lightweight carbon fibre with foldable structure for ease of transportation and has unique features like autonomous guidance through dual redundant MEMS-based digital autopilot with advanced flight instrumentation systems.

Congratulating his team on the endeavour, Dr P V Satyanaraya Murthy, head of UAV at CSIR-NAL, said the octacopter is the need of the hour for greater penetration of vaccines in the country’s remote areas. “NAL octacopter is perfectly designed for such missions and can easily be operated by unskilled persons. NAL has already tied up with private firms for drone manufacturing and offering operational services,” he informed.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation granted conditional permission to CSIR-NAL for conducting BVLOS flight trials on September 13. The octacopter can carry a payload of 15 kg with a hovering endurance of 40 minutes. It can fly at an operational altitude of 500 metres AGL and at a maximum speed of 36 kmph. Its regulatory compliance includes DGCA-NPNT, geo fencing and digital sky with 360 degree collision avoidance, making it one of the best UAVs in its class.

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