Telangana launches ‘Medicine from the Sky’ project to drone-deliver vaccines, medicines to remote areas

By Syed Mohammed
Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya M. Scindia and IT Minister K.T. Rama Rao and others witness the first ever delivery of medicines and jabs by drone in the Vikarabad district, Telangana, Saturday, Sep 10, 2021. (Source: PTI)

Telangana on Saturday became the first State in the country to embark on Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLoS) flights to deliver a payload comprising vaccines, with the launch of Medicine from the Sky project in Vikarabad.

The project, which seeks to deliver medicines, vaccination, and units of blood to remote, rural areas by means of drones, is a collaboration of the Telangana government, World Economic Forum, HealthNet Global and NITI Aayog.

Eight consortia are a part of the project, out of which three – Hepicopter, comprising Marut Drones and Public Health Foundation of India, Blue Dart Med Express, comprising Blue Dart and Skye Air, and Curis Fly, comprising TechEagle, launched their drones on Saturday. The payload was delivered from the Vikarabad Police Parade Ground to a government healthcare facility around three kilometres away.

After launching the project, Union Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia described drone technology as a revolution, and India as its leader. He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had liberalised the drone policy and centrality is now on self-certification and empowering those involved in this ecosystem. “This will unleash the potential of the youth. You have startups like Marut, like TechEagle, like Skye Air,” he said.

He said that liberalised new Drone Rules have made it easier for entrepreneurs. The number of forms has been cut from 25 to five. The types of fee have been reduced from 72 to seven.

Speaking on the occasion, Information Technology Minister K.T. Ramarao said that the project is an exciting intersection of technology and healthcare and the State has been at the forefront of using emerging technologies. Drones, which are already finding a host of applications in the State, including for afforestation, would prove to be important in reaching remote areas, and in case of emergencies.

Describing the State as progressive, Mr Rao, echoing Chevella Member of Parliament Dr G. Ranjith Reddy, requested Mr Scindia to develop the Begumpet Airport into an aviation university or centre of excellence, which would provide skills to the youth of the country.

Vignesh Santhanam, India Lead, Drones and Tomorrow’s Airspace World Economic Forum, said that the model being embarked upon is that of leveraging make in India drones, to carry made-in-India vaccines to serve rural and isolated communities.

“We will see a host of breakthroughs this whole week. We are also looking to capture data, insights, information and first person accounts over 28 days. We will develop a report to capture the level of complexity of this programme, and make it simple, for easier consumption and adoption of our decision makers,” he said.

The WEF has commissioned an industry core group comprising the Governemnt of Telangana, PHFI, and NITI Aayog to look into aspects of mobilising capital for the drone ecosystem, with an emphasis on medical drone ecosystem. The other aspect would be to identify distressed last miles in the country where drone intervention is required.

The Medicine from the Sky project would be ramped up in six other States in the country, in the next six to 12 months. “We are already in talks with Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Gujarat to expand this effort nationally. This is the template not just for India, but also the region at large,” Mr Santhanam said.


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