The Telangana government’s initiative ‘Medicine from the Sky’ was launched on Saturday to deliver medicines to remote areas using drones.
Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Telangana’s Minister for Industries and Information Technology, K. T. Rama Rao formally launched the project at Vikarabad, making Telangana the first state to use drones to deliver medicines.
The maiden drone delivered a five kg box of vaccine doses to a community health centre located three kilometres away in 10 minutes.
The first sortie was carried out by a drone built by SkyAir Mobility for its Consortium partner ‘Blue Dart Express’.
Life-saving drugs, vaccines, blood and even organs for transplantation could easily be transported to remote places while saving precious time, Rama Rao said while speaking at the launch event.
‘Medicines from the Sky’ initiative is spearheaded by the Emerging Technologies Wing of the Department of Information Technology, Electronics and Communications in partnership with the World Economic Forum, NITI Aayog, and HealthNet Global (Apollo Hospitals).
The project entails India’s first organised ‘Beyond the Visual Line Of Sight’ (BVLOS) trials as multiple drone consortiums are participating together to establish the use-case of long range drone-based medical deliveries. This is also the first drone programme since the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation had recently liberalised its drone policy.
As the first organised drone delivery programme in Asia, the trials are focused on laying the groundwork for the drone delivery network that will improve access to vital health care supplies for remote and vulnerable communities.
The project has eight participating consortiums comprising of drone operators, experts in healthcare and airspace management, among others, that will demonstrate short and long-range drone-based deliveries to assess the efficacy of low altitude aerial logistics in healthcare.
The launch marks the beginning of nearly a month-long continuous trials by the eight selected consortiums, that have been batched into two per week on a lottery basis. They will conduct BVLOS trials and collect the data from each flight.
The insights from these trials will be used to drive adoption strategy for the state, and also publish reports that highlight Telangana’s experience and how the same can be leveraged by all states across India.
The selected eight consortiums 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) where each consortium in addition to having a drone operator, also has an UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) partner, and a healthcare/cold-chain partner.
Speaking on the occasion, Scindia said the Union Civil Aviation Ministry’s new drone rules have unlocked the drone industry and the innovation on the principles of trust, self-certification, and non-intrusive monitoring.
“Drones is 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,” he added.
Minister Rama Rao said Telangana has always acted as a testbed for innovative solutions to support scaling across the nation. “Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted that the healthcare supply chains can be further strengthened, and drones offer a robust value proposition especially when it comes to remote areas and emergencies. The ‘Medicine from the Sky’ is the first-of-its-kind initiative in the country to generate insights that shall benefit the entire ecosystem. The enthusiasm and support by all partners are deeply appreciated,” the Telangana Minister added.
The launch programme was attended by Telangana’s Education Minister P. Sabitha Indra Reddy, Joint Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals, Sangita Reddy, and Vignesh Santhanam, India Lead, Drones & Aerospace, World Economic Forum from the project’s partner organizations.