Hyderabad: Hepicopter, a medical delivery drone of Hyderabad-based Marut Dronetech and other consortium partners RICH, Public Health Foundation of India, and Adani Defence Group company Alpha Digital Technologies has begun trials in Vikarabad as part of Government of Telangana’s initiative ‘Medicine from the Sky’. The project has been formally launched by Jyotiraditya M Scindia, Civil Aviation Minister, K T Rama Rao, Telangana IT Minister and Patlolla Sabitha Indra Reddy, Telangana Education Minister.
Hepicopter is heavy payload, long range drone paired to a custom developed modular temperature-controlled box (patent pending) platform that can safely and reliably deliver multiple medical payloads simultaneously and improve access to vaccines, lab samples and possibly on-demand medical products to primary health centres and sub centres in rural, remote, and hard to reach areas.
In India, a significant number of the primary health centres and sub centres are in rural, remote, and hard to reach areas, making Covid-19 vaccination operationally challenging. Beyond the immediate Covid-19-induced scenario, there are several primary health centres and sub centres in hilly, forest or river areas of several States that are usually cut off from road connections for several months in a year due to heavy rains, landslides and very inclement weather like fog and snow. Hepicopter is built to address these challenges, Prem Kumar Vislawath, founder, Marut Dronetech said.
The Hepicopter platform can support vaccination in remote areas by safely transporting about 2,000-5,000 doses of vaccines at 2-8 degrees in one trip over a straight-line distance of 20-40 kilometres. A pair of drones can fly around 10 trips every day to different health facilities transporting 40,000-1,00,000 doses and deliver them directly.
He explained, “Post Covid-19 vaccinations, the drone platform can support multi-payload regular scheduled delivery to health facilities. In one trip two to four temperature-controlled boxes can carry 2,000 vaccines or about 1,000 medicine doses or 40 blood samples or two units of blood in any combination over a straight-line distance of 20-40 kilometres. A pair of drones can fly around 10 trips every day to different health facilities and deliver directly. The drones will be flown from a custom designed mobile launch pad, complete with fridges and freezers, continuous communication, and a real time command centre.”
Telangana Government led ‘Medicine from the Sky’ project in collaboration with World Economic Forum, Niti Aayog and Healthnet Global along with the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has granted the project with necessary exemptions and rights to fly drone flights on an experimental basis in Telangana. NITI Aayog became a key partner in the journey of the project and convened a round table discussion on February 11, 2021, for operationalising drone-based medical deliveries across India.
Through the initiative, the Government of Telangana wants to ensure “faster vaccine delivery and ‘improved healthcare access”. Recently, the Ministry of Civil Aviation granted Telangana government exemption from the UAS Rules 2021 and granted permission for conducting beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations.
The State Government has engaged the district administration to plan the on-ground operations and has also identified nodal officers to support the same. In Vikarabad district, the State government, will utilise BVLOS flights in Vikarabad district with the area hospital as the take-off site and various PHCs and sub-centres as the landing sites.
Approved vaccines and medicines will now be delivered using drones within Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) for one year. Hepicopter, accessible through a mobile app will enable medical delivery drones reach the remote areas where primary healthcare providers can get daily supplies at a click of a button within a few minutes.
He added, “The delivery works on a hub-and-spoke model. The team gets a message on the inventory needed. This is loaded at the central hub, and the drones take off, after the regular pre-flight tests and checks of wind conditions, audio pilot systems, and GPS tracker. The coordinates are fed into the systems and the health examiner picks up the vials at the drop-off point. Each drone would carry supplies and the performance would be recorded in detail and this data would be used to guide further policies regarding full-scale adoption.”