Vaccines were delivered by an i-Drone to a hospital on an island in Manipur

In a bid to make healthcare accessible to everyone and ensuring that life-saving vaccines reach everyone, a ‘Make in India’ drone was used to transport COVID-19 vaccine for the first time in South Asia on Monday.

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya launched the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s Drone Response and Outreach (i-Drone) in the country’s North Eastern Region.

The delivery of vaccines by i-Drone over an aerial distance of 15 kms was made in less than15 minuted from the Bishnupur district hospital to Loktak lake, Karang island in Manipur for administration at the PHC.

Congratulating the people of the country on this innovative step, Mandaviya said, “This is for the first time that a ‘Make in India’ drone has been used in South Asia to transport COVID vaccine.”

“The actual road distance between these locations is 26 km. Today 10 beneficiaries will receive the first dose and 8 will receive the second dose at the PHC,” the Health Minister added.

The Union Health Minister further stated that India is home to geographical diversities and drones can be used to deliver essentials to the last mile.

“We can use drones in delivering important life-saving medicines, collecting blood samples. This technology can also be used in critical situations. This technology may prove a game changer in addressing the challenges in health care delivery, particularly health supplies in difficult areas,” he added.

Launching the initiative which would facilitate vaccine delivery to tough and hard-to-reach terrains of India, Mandaviya said, “Our immunization program for COVID-19 have already exceeded all expectations.”

“I strongly believe that this initiative will further help us achieve the highest possible immunization coverage for COVID-19. Incorporating such drone technologies into the national programs would help deliver other vaccines and medical supplies as quickly as possible,” he said.

The Minister noted that despite the effective and safe vaccine administration in the States and Union Territories, the vaccine delivery among tough and hard-to-reach terrains of India is still challenging.
He said, this i-Drone has been designed to overcome these challenges by deploying Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAV) / drones to remote areas and hard to reach terrains.

According to Mandaviya, currently, the drone based delivery project has been granted permission for implementation in Manipur and Nagaland, as well as union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Island.

ICMR conducted an initial study in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur to test the capacity of drones to carry and transfer vaccines safely, he further said.

The study was conducted in Manipur, Nagaland and Andaman and Nicobar, the Minister added.

He maintained that 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 have granted permission to fly drones beyond the Visual Line Of Sight.

Mandaviya expressed confidence in the initiative and noted that this initiative can be helpful in delivering not only the vaccines but also other medical supplies.

This will help in overcoming the gaps in current vaccine delivery mechanisms.
He thanked the Ministry of Civil Aviation, DGCA and Airport Authority of India for their support towards this endeavour and congratulated ICMR, health workers and all associated with this landmark initiative.

Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Balram Bhargava, Director General, ICMR and other senior officers of the Ministry, State Governments, ICMR were also present on the occasion.