New Delhi: In a first of its kind of effort in India, the Covid-19 vaccine was delivered to a far-flung primary health centre (PHC) through a drone in the North-Eastern state of Manipur on October 4. The delivery model has been developed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to deliver life-saving drugs and vaccines in inaccessible areas and has been named – ICMR’s Drone Response and Outreach in North East (i-Drone).
Mansukh Mandaviya, union minister for health and family welfare launched the i-Drone program on October 4 in New Delhi and witnessed the first delivery of the Covid-19 vaccine through a drone.
The ICMR’s drone successfully travelled a distance of 15 kilometres from Bilaspur district hospital in Manipur to Karang Island situated at Loktak Lake. The road distance between the two places was 26 kilometres while the drone travelled the aerial distance of 15 kilometres in around 15 minutes. It delivered the Covid-19 vaccine to the local PHC through which 10 beneficiaries will receive the first dose and 8 will receive the second dose.
“This is the first time that a drone has been used to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine in South Asia. The vaccine delivery to inaccessible and hard-to-reach terrains of India is still challenging. The i-Drone program has been designed to overcome these challenges,” Mandaviya said.
Currently, the authorities have given permission for a drone-based delivery project for Manipur, Nagaland, and union territories of Andaman and Nicobar Island.
ICMR had conducted an initial study in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, to test the capacity of drones to carry and transfer vaccines safely. The study was conducted in Manipur, Nagaland and Andaman, and Nicobar. These studies provided promising results on the basis of which the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), and other regulatory authorities granted permission to fly drones beyond the Visual Line Of Sight.
“The drone technology in future may prove to be a game-changer in addressing the challenges in health care delivery, particularly health supplies in difficult areas,” Mandaviya said.