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Uttarakhand drone force readies for Covid-19 vaccination in remote areas

Hindustan Times, Dehradun | ByKalyan Das | Edited by Abhinav Sahay
Dec 06, 2020 08:08 AM IST

The state has been already using drones to detect forest fires, poaching, for policing and also in disaster management. State agency DARC has conducted trials to carry vaccines by drone.

Amid reports of the Covid-19 vaccination drive likely to start in coming weeks, Uttarakhand’s Drone Application and Research Centre (DARC) under Information Technology Development Agency (ITDA) is gearing up for possible application of drones to supply the vaccine doses in remote areas of the state.

The state government has already set up a task force at state, district and block level to implement and monitor the vaccination process once it starts.

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The government machinery is now working more actively in this regard after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that the vaccine for Covid-19 would be launched in next few weeks.

Citing the steps taken by the state government, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had said that the biggest challenge in the vaccination process would be storage and logistics. Considering it, the use of drones by the DARC, which is the country’s first such body, could be significant.

The state has been already using drones to detect forest fires, poaching, for policing and also in disaster management.

DARC conducted trials to carry vaccines by drone.

Amit Sinha, inspector general, Uttarakhand police and director of ITDA said, “The drones can be definitely used to carry the Covid-19 vaccines in areas which are difficult to reach or take more time. We have already conducted a successful test a few weeks back.”

“Under the test, we had flown a fixed wing drone carrying a vaccine of a disease in an ice-box from the DARC in Dehradun to Mussoorie. It reached the desired point in Mussoorie in about half an hour covering 14km and then returned after dropping the package. In about one hour it covered about 30 km,” said Sinha.

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He also informed that the agency had also successfully tested a drone to carry blood samples of a patient from Dehradun to a village in Tehri Garhwal.

“The agency is fully ready to use drones in the vaccination process with its expertise. If needed it would also associate with the private individual drone users and developers who are associated with the agency in development of the unmanned aerial vehicles here,” said Sinha.

The ITDA at present has about 12 drones including Quadcopters and fixed-wing vehicles, Sinha added.

“The Quadcopters can fly for less time while the fixed wing ones can fly for more time and cover longer distances. The fixed ones are used for carrying vaccines or medicines as per requirement. We can develop more fixed-wing drones at the centre if needed. Have already been supplying (drones) to the state disaster management department for various uses,” said Sinha.

The state health department which is the forefront force handling the ongoing pandemic and would also monitor the vaccination process, said it is yet to take a decision on the use of drones for Covid-19 vaccine delivery.

“As of now, as initial preparation for the vaccination process, we have formed the task force at various levels. On the use of drones, we haven’t taken any decision but can mull it once the vaccination process starts,” said Amit Negi, state health secretary.

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