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‘White Knight’ to the rescue in Covid times

Sangeetha Chengappa Bengaluru | Updated on May 02, 2021

Garuda’s White Knight drones, ready to be deployed to deliver vaccines and medicines at primary health care centres across the country

Garuda Aerospace is deploying drones to deliver medicines and vaccines to Bengaluru hospitals

Garuda Aerospace, a Chennai-based start-up that designs, builds and customises unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for multiple applications, has deployed 15 ‘White Knight’ drones in Bengaluru as a part of feasibility analysis and field trials starting Friday, April 30, to deliver medicines and vaccines in four hospitals in the Bengaluru Central constituency.

The trials are being conducted in Victoria Hospital, Vanivilas Hospital, JJR Nagar Referral Hospital and Bowring Hospital. The drones will deliver medicines and vaccines within the hospitals from one ward to the other, or from one building to the other.

Garuda Aerospace has developed and manufactured a highly specialised delivery fleet of 30 “White Knight” drones to deliver emergency medical kits, Covid-19 vaccines and medicines to PHCs as well as conduct sanitisation operations across the country.

Recently, the DGCA granted conditional exemption to ICMR for testing the feasibility of drones delivering vaccines. DGCA permitted 13 consortiums to conduct BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) operations, which opened up several possible applications of drones delivering food, medicines, packages, and even people in air taxis.

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Feasibility analysis

Garuda Aerospace is part of AIDAT, which is one of the consortiums permitted to conduct these trials. The start-up is guided by Agni mission, Invest India and works directly under the supervision of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister. Garuda Aerospace has been at the forefront of utilising drones for sanitisation during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and had also supported the NDRF in the Glacier burst disaster in Uttarakhand earlier this year.

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“The increasing demand for Covid-19 vaccines at Primary Healthcare Centres has prompted the special task force to commence utilising drones in the fight against Covid-19. For the first time in India, drone delivery of Covid-19 vaccines will undergo feasibility analysis and field trials in Karnataka under the watchful eyes of Karnataka Health Ministry and the Special Taskforce. If successful, this could be a breakthrough in ensuring Covid-19 vaccine reaches remote villages in Karnataka and geographically-isolated locations across India” said PC Mohan, MP, Bengaluru Central.

Trials during lockdown

"In tumultuous times such as these, it is quite extraordinary to see visionary leadership exhibited by PC Mohan and the Government to utilise technology in our battle against Covid. Telangana and Tamil Nadu have also shown interest in using our White Knight fleet of drones to deliver medicines and vaccines. The White Knight drones were in R&D for the last two years; we developed and manufactured them in the last two months in readiness to execute aerial delivery of emergency medicines, food and packages. Trials were conducted during the lockdown last year in Tamil Nadu and real time implementation of the drones delivering Covid-19 vaccines looks promising,” Agnishwar Jayaprakash, founder and CEO, Garuda Aerospace, told BusinessLine.

The White Knight drones are equipped with a temperature controlled module, can carry a payload of 35-40 kg and travel 50-60 km with an endurance capacity of two hours.

Published on May 02, 2021

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