A “medicine from the sky” initiative was launched in Arunachal Pradesh on Monday, under which drones are being used to deliver medicines in the remote corners of the hilly state.
The initiative in East Kameng district, backed by the World Economic Forum (WEF), is aimed at documenting how health systems in remote parts of the state respond to the integration of drone-based supply chains. It was launched by Arunachal chief minister Pema Khandu on the occasion of the country’s 75th Independence Day.
Since supplies can now be delivered at a faster pace, the drone network is expected to not just improve availability of medical services but also reduce expenditure of patients. The pilot project comes in the aftermath of the liberalisation of the country’s drone economy in 2021.
The initiative will be centred around four pillars. The first one is to ensure basic healthcare needs of people through regular services for vaccines, nutrition supplements, mass drug administration, diagnostic sample collection and emergency medications. The second pillar deals with building ecosystem skill levels and the third focusses on resource estimation and impact assessment. The fourth pillar deals with the stress testing of drone platforms and ascertaining the ability of available technologies to handle undulating terrain.
Vignesh Santhanam, lead (aerospace and drones) at the WEF, said, “We will work on two bell-weather districts – East Kameng and Lower Subansiri…”
The WEF launched the “medicine from the sky” initiative in 2019 to deliver vaccines to rural communities. It was tested in Telangana earlier and is now being extended to Arunachal. As of May, more than 300 vaccine delivery trials were completed, with plans to expand and reach more communities, according to the WEF.
With renewed push by the government for greater adoption of the drone technology, the Indian Council of Medical Research has also released guidelines for drone use in the healthcare sector to ensure access to medicines, vaccines, etc, in geographically difficult terrains in the country.