Drones delivering medicines, a revolution in the health sector

Read in this chapter of Changemakers the positive impact that technological advancements have brought to the health sector. These changes are here to stay and make differences in the lives of many for good.

The drones are being utilised in almost every sector, and they are now expanding their reach to the healthcare sector as well. Experiments with the devices are on full swing to help people who are in need.

Various innovative steps by the Indian government have resulted in medicines being delivered with the help of drones. Covid-19 lockdown proved to be challenging for people, as a lot of them were unable to step out of their houses even when they needed emergency medicines. People realised that technological innovations could help during these tough times. This realisation led to positive results.  

Pilot test for medicine distribution by drones in Arunachal Pradesh

Recently, the drone delivery and network system with the support of SAMRIDH Healthcare Blended Finance Facility, New Delhi and the United States Agency for International Development, Washington DC was used for delivering medicines at home. The name of this initiative in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh was named as ‘Medicines from the sky’. It was launched under the authority of the World Economic Forum (WEF). The state government also became a part of the initiative to integrate Arunachal’s healthcare with drones. This was done to fulfill the requirements of medical supplies of the people living in the hilly state. It is still in the experimental state. The East Kameng district of Arunachal, which is particularly inaccessible because of a challenging geography, has also been brought under its purview.

Himanshu Sikka, Project Director, SAMRIDH, said, “Efforts are underway to overcome supply shortages in India’s health sector”. Vignesh Santhanam, chief of aerospace and drones at WEF, said, “The liberal Indian drone policy has helped start-ups to make progress, which makes us hopeful about positive results in sectors such as health”.

Growing interests in drone start-ups

Start-ups in India have started showing interests in drones. One such example is Radcliffe Labs, a health-tech start-up. In June 2022, it undertook an initiative to use drones to supply medical samples from Uttarkashi to Dehradun in Uttarakhand using drones. The distance between these two places is 140 kilometres, which generally takes about six hours to cover. The drones covered this distance in almost an hour and a half less. 

Ankit Kumar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the drone-delivery platform Skye Air Mobility said, “Drone services are being used to make almost 85 per cent of health facilities in the country easily accessible. These services are 30 per cent cheaper and 80 per cent less time-consuming”.

Skye Air Ankit Kumar

Making health facilities accessible with the help of drones is a better alternative. This is because there has been an increase in the utilisation of flying devices across different sectors. However, it needs improvements seeing the challenges of bad weather or technical problems and their complexities. 

According to the report of Drone Regulation in India published by Lexology, registration with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and a license are compulsory to operate drones in India. Those who operate the drones should be over 18 years of age, minimum Class 10 passed, and should receive training from an institute approved by the DGCA. It is also compulsory to clear a written examination.

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