India’s Medicine from the sky project enables start of medical deliveries in Manipur

India’s Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has launched Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) Drone Response and Outreach initiative in North East (i-Drone) in Manipur, in early October, according to a report in The Hindu Times. ICMR first began trials in collaboration with IIT Kanpur in April 2021 under the aviation ministry’s Medicine from the Sky project.

The delivery model is aimed at ensuring that life-saving vaccines reach everyone.

The health minister said the initiative facilitates vaccine delivery to tough and hard-to-reach terrains. Incorporating such technologies into national programs helps to deliver other vaccines and medical supplies as quickly as possible.

The i-Drone initiative has been designed to overcome these challenges by deploying Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAV)/drones to remote areas and hard to reach terrains. Currently, the drone-based delivery project has been granted permission for implementation in Manipur and Nagaland, as well as Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

“This is for the first time that a ‘Make in India’ drone has been used in South Asia to transport COVID vaccine over an aerial distance of 15 km in 12-15 mins from the Bishnupur district hospital to Loktak lake, Karang island in Manipur for administration at the primary health centre. The actual road distance between these locations is 26 k.m. Today, 10 beneficiaries will receive the first dose and 8 will receive the second dose at the PHC,’’ said the Minister.

In September, Telangana launched beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) to deliver a payload comprising vaccines. The Medicine from the Sky project is a collaboration of the Telangana government, World Economic Forum, HealthNet Global and NITI Aayog that seeks to deliver medicines, vaccination, and units of blood to remote, rural areas by means of drones.

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