Drones are commonly used for surveillance or photography. But if it is said that the lifesaving medicines will be delivered by drones, it is normal to get surprised! The Govt of Telangana is thinking of such an initiative, which is called 'Medicine From The Sky.’ With the help of this initiative of the Telangana government, drones will be able to reach different parts of the state with medicines, vaccines, blood, various samples for lab tests, and various medical supplies. The project was launched on September 11, 2021, from the Vikarabad district of Telangana. The Telangana government has already obtained clearance from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
What is Medicine from the Sky (MFTS)?
This project is initiated by the state IT department’s Emerging Technologies Wing which has a partnership with the World Economic Forum, NITI Aayog, and HealthNet Global. The goal of MFTS is to experiment with Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights for vaccine delivery using the Vikarabad district air space.
In 2020, the Telangana government has signed a partnership with the World Economic Forum to start the MFTS project. Later they released an expression of interest (EOI) to identify the drones’ capability to provide accurate, safe and dependable pickup as well as delivery of the health care products. However, about 16 consortia or logistic farms and drone operators showed interest in the project and the government shortlisted 8 of them.
India never initiated this kind of project before and it is believed to be the first organized BVLOS drone trial in the country. Moreover, it is also the first initiative in the healthcare domain.
Before the launching event three consortia Hepicopter Consortium (Marut Drones), Bluedart Med Express Consortium (Skye Air), and CurisFly Consortium (TechEagle Innovations) reached Vikarabad for test flights. After the launch, all the eight consortia will continue testing for long-distance travel and heavier payloads to see the reliability.
What are the opportunities?
Although drones are widely used for photography, video shot, mapping, and other operations. But, the current COVID-19 pandemic has increased the scope of using drones beyond the limit. As per the published plan, the selected consortia will demonstrate BVLOS flights’ utilization in the Vikarabad district. They will use the Government Area Hospital to take off and different primary health centers (PHC) and sub-centers will be landing sites.
So, the startups and private sector firms can collaborate with the state government and integrate with the government healthcare system to improve the traditional delivery system for the life-saving elements. Thinking of the ongoing pandemic, the medicine from the sky project can give access to healthcare centers in rural and remote locations.
Hepicopter consortium, one of the selected consortiums, has mentioned that India can use up to five UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) or drones per district with a range of 40km. Within this distance, the payload can be up to 15 kg with an endurance of two hours. As per the assumption, the government can cover 718 districts in India using 3600 drones and distribute 15,000 kg vaccines in a single day.