Trials will begin on 15 August, and will be centered on Arunachal Pradesh’s hilly Kameng district. The initiative aims to test the technological capabilities of drones and to understand how health providers in remote regions responded to the use of drone-based supply chains.
Drone operations will be directed from Seppa, and will be managed through a ‘hub and spoke’ model connecting laboratories and central healthcare facilities in the town with primary and community healthcare centers throughout the district. The drones will be designed, manufactured and operated by Indian start-ups.
The network will be set up on an experimental basis for a period of between six to eight months. Based on the network’s impact, the state will begin implementing similar systems in other districts.
The initiative follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in February between the state government and the WEF to jointly explore the potential uses of drones for medical logistics purposes, with the aim of eventually scaling up their use.
Speaking to the New Indian Express newspaper, District Magistrate Pravimal Abhishek Polumatla said: “East Kameng district has a hilly terrain which makes it difficult to access interior areas, particularly during monsoon season. I am sure drone-based drug delivery will be a game changer in strengthening access to healthcare in such remote areas. I hope the project will give us the answers and clarity for large-scale implementation.
“By delivering medical supplies much faster than road-based logistics, the drone network would serve the remote areas by offering access to diagnostics, essential medicines, and vaccines. We are hoping that this will reduce out-of-the-pocket expenditure for patients,” he added.
The initiative’s launch comes two months after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has released an 28-page guideline document covering the use of logistical drones in healthcare.