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Medicine From The Sky: Telangana becomes first state to deploy drones in diagnostic and healthcare

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Express News Service

In less than three weeks, a COVID-positive patient in need of an emergency medicine in Vikarabad, a town 75 km from Telangana’s capital Hyderabad, can order posaconazole or tocilizumab via drone and get it in an hour.

It is just like ordering double cheese margaritas on Zomato or Swiggy, except that the Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) drone can travel beyond urban limits to save lives.

Telangana has become the first state in India to deploy drones in diagnostic and healthcare as part of its Medicine From The Sky (MFTS) initiative. Wing Commander S Vijay (veteran), Chief Operating Officer, Skye Air Mobility, a Delhi/Bengaluru-based company that has received the permission to start BVLOS trials, says that the success of project would directly benefit patients in need of emergency blood transfusion or medication for COVID-19, snakebite or any kind of trauma care.

“We can use a drone to deliver blood within a radius of 30 km from blood bank, in less than 30 minutes, without the need for the patient to move from a rural hospital to a district/town hospital. Drones can play a vital role in quickly transporting organs from one city hospital to another without the hassles of traffic or any need to create green corridors. Imagine what a boon it would be for someone who needs an organ transplant,” says Vijay.

As many as 30 daily deliveries can be done by a single drone at a speed of 50 to 60 km per hour on 4G networks. Most of us have seen camera drones at weddings.

But they are micro drones which carry only small cameras. The drones we are talking about are small class of drones (two to 25 kg), which can carry payloads up to 10 kg and can fly nearly 60 kmph.   

The Indian Air Force aeronautical engineer-turned-COO, Vijay, says the government will need to deploy 20 to 30 BVLOS delivery drones, costing between Rs 15-30 lakh, to be able to effectively cover one district.

“Drones can also guard premises such as oil and natural gas facilities, which are typically spread across hundreds of acres. The drones come with sensitive thermal sensors and can detect human presence even under camouflage conditions using heat signature, which a human patrolling team cannot. They bring back precious scanning data within seconds and action can be taken at the control room, using human intelligence,” he explains.


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