Medicine From The Sky Project


    In News 

    Recently, the Telangana state government has selected 16 primary healthcare centres (PHCs) spread around Vikarabad area hospital for pilot testing the ambitious project ‘Medicine from the sky’.

    More in News 

    • The area hospital has been selected as the central point owing to the presence of cold chain facilities and the selected PHCs are both within the Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) range. 

    About The Project 

    • It is the first-of-its-kind project involving the delivery of medicines through multiple drones.
    • The project includes a comprehensive study of drone-based deliveries for blood, vaccines, diagnostic specimens, and lifesaving equipment.
    • The project framework was prepared by World Economic Forum(WEF) and Group Healthnet Global Limited and was later adopted by the Telangana government.
      • In March 2020, the Telangana government had signed a collaboration agreement for the ‘Medicine from the Sky’ project with the World Economic Forum and Apollo Hospital’s HealthNet Global, to conduct a feasibility study to examine how drones can be used to improve medical supply chains.
    • The project will be launched in the VLOS range of 500 metres initially and will be scaled up gradually to a 9 km range.

                              Image courtesy: TH

    • The project is being launched following the approval granted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to the request made by the State to grant conditional exemption from the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules 2021 for conducting experimental BVLOS drone flights for delivery of vaccines.
      • Accordingly, the State had been permitted to conduct the experimental flights for one year.

    Objectives And Need   

    • The project is aimed at assessing alternative logistics routes in providing safe, accurate and reliable pick up and delivery of health care items like medicines, COVID-19 vaccines, units of blood and other lifesaving equipment from the distribution centre to specific locations and back.
    • The project envisioned ensuring healthcare equity in rural areas.  
    • The project would generate real and actionable insights for future policies and their integration with the existing healthcare supply chain. 

    About Drone

    • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, are aircraft either controlled by ‘pilots’ from the ground or increasingly, autonomously following a pre-programmed mission. 
    • There are three subsets of Unmanned Aircraft- Remotely Piloted Aircraft, Autonomous Aircraft and Model Aircraft.
    • Remotely Piloted Aircraft consists of remote pilot station(s), the required command and control links and any other components, as specified in the type design.
    • Remotely piloted aircraft have been divided into five categories based on their weight-
      • Nano: Less than or equal to 250 grams.
      • Micro: From 250 grams to 2kg.
      • Small: From 2 kg to 25kg.
      • Medium : From 25kg to 150kg.
      • Large: Greater than 150kg.
    • Under the Drone Regulation in 2018, the Ministry of Civil Aviation partitioned the Air space into Red Zone (flying not permitted), Yellow Zone (controlled airspace), and Green Zone (automatic permission).

    Visual Line of Sight (‘VLOS’)

    • ‘VLOS’ operations are a type of UAS operation in which the remote pilot maintains continuous, unaided visual contact with the unmanned aircraft.  In its simplest term, the aircraft must always be visible to the pilot.  
    • This allows the remote pilot to control the flight path of the unmanned aircraft in relation to other aircraft, people, and obstacles to avoid collisions. The aircraft may not be flown behind trees, buildings, or other obstacles

    Beyond Visual Line of Sight(BVLOS)

    • BVLOS is a term relating to the operation of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and drones at distances outside the normal visible range of the pilot.
    • BVLOS drone operations provide numerous advantages over regular line-of-sight flying. 
      • They are more cost-effective and efficient, as there are fewer takeoff and landing phases, so the UAV will cover more ground in a single mission.
      •  They require less human intervention as some or all of the mission may be automated. They may also allow easier access to remote or hazardous areas
    • BVLOS UAV operations carry more safety concerns because the pilot may only be observing potential obstacles via a remote camera feed, or, in the case of automated flights, there may be no human observation at all.
      • This means that there is the additional risk of collisions with other aircraft, or damage to property and people, especially when flights take place in non-segregated airspace.
      • BVLOS flights typically require additional equipment and extra training and certification and are usually subject to permission from aviation authorities in many jurisdictions around the world.

    Source: TH