The Medicine from the Sky project was launched by the southern state of Telangana (India) last week using modern drones.
Taking advantage of the new relaxed drone rules, the southern state of Telangana has decided to spearhead this ambitious project.
The Medicine from the Sky project was initiated in 2019 to demonstrate the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology to supply medicines to India’s villages. The trials were conducted in May 2020, however, the final green signal came last month when the union government notified the new UAV rules and regulations.
Vikarabad town, about 75km west of Hyderabad, has been selected as the nodal city for the pilot project. Sixteen primary health centres (PHCs) within 9km are part of this project, some within the Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) range and many beyond the visual range (BVLOS), with licensed drone pilots operating the delivery drones.
The inaugural flight of the medicine supply drone took place on September 11, 2021, in the presence of the Union Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia and Telangana’s IT Minister KT Rama Rao.
The maiden drone delivered a 5kg box of vaccines to a community health centre three kilometers away in ten minutes. Since then, more than 100 drone deliveries have been successfully completed.
On this occasion, Scindia said the Medicines from the Sky project, developed in partnership with World Economic Forum, Niti Aayog, and HealthNet Global, is being undertaken on a pilot basis for now. The Medicine from the Sky project will be scaled up to the national level in the coming years.
The Minister further added
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.”
Below, a short video of of the inaugural drone flight (Courtesy of Hindu Business Line).
The project’s objective is to assess alternative modes of medicine delivery logistics and route planning for more extensive operations. Once successful, the government will use drones for transporting human bio-samples from villages and transport them to advanced diagnostics laboratories in Hyderabad.
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