A pilot project to test the feasibility of delivering medicines, vaccines to remote locations by drones was launched at Vikarabad near Hyderabad on Saturday.
‘Medicine from the Sky’ is an initiative of the Telangana government, spearheaded by the Emerging Technologies Wing of the ITE&C Department, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, NITI Aayog, and HealthNet Global (Apollo Hospitals).
The programme was inaugurated by union civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Telangana’s IT, industries and municipal administration minister K T Rama Rao.
In the maiden attempt, a drone carried medicines, vaccines to a community health centre.
The ‘Medicine from the Sky’ project entails India’s first organised Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) trials. Under this initiative, multiple drone consortia are operating together to establish the use-case of long range drone based medical deliveries. This is also the first drone program since the Ministry of Civil Aviation had recently liberalised its drone policy.
“The ministry’s new drone rules have unlocked the drone industry and the innovation therein on the principles of trust, self-certification, and non-intrusive monitoring. Drones are a frontier technology that can be used to access the otherwise inaccessible areas, and thus allow equitable access to basic services like healthcare for even the farthest and remotest of areas. India is all set to become the drone hub of the world by 2030, and the potential of our innovators is only infinite” said Scindia.
Medicine from the Sky would lay the drone delivery network to improve the access to vital health care supplies for remote and vulnerable communities. The project is a first-of-its-kind as it overlaps the two most regulated sectors in the world i.e. aviation and healthcare, officials said.
The project has participation of eight consortia, comprising drone operators, experts in healthcare and airspace management, and would demonstrate short and long-range drone-based deliveries to assess the efficacy of low altitude aerial logistics in healthcare.
The pilot includes a month long continuous trials by the eight consortia, batched into two per week on a lottery basis. They will conduct the BVLOS trials, collect data from every flight covering all the parameters. While the information would be used to adopt a drone based medicine delivery strategy for the state, the Telangana experience is expected to help other states of the country espouse similar approach.
The eight consortia along with their operators are Airserve Consortium (Airserve Initiatives); Bluedart Med Express Consortium (Skye Air); CurisFly Consortium (TechEagle Innovations); Dunzo Med Air Consortium (Skye Air); Flipkart Air Consortium (DroneAcharya Aerial Innovations); Hepicopter Consortium (Marut Drones); Medisky Consortium (Sagar Defence Engineering); Redwing Consortium (Redwing Labs). Each consortium, in addition to having a drone operator, would also have an UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) partner, and a healthcare/cold-chain partner.
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