Independence Day: Trials for drone-based healthcare network launched in Arunachal Pradesh’s East Kameng district

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A trial to use drones to provide superior healthcare services to tribal and rural communities in Seppa, a town in East Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh, was launched on the 76th Independence Day.

Redwing Labs, a startup, would provide made-in-India hybrid Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) drones and run end-to-end operations for the project. The healthcare drone pilots in Arunachal Pradesh are an outcome of the state’s partnership with the World Economic Forum’s Medicines From the Sky (MFTS) initiative.

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“In mid-2021, we undertook a field study in Arunachal Pradesh to learn more about the local health distribution system, disease profile and nature of the terrain. Traversing the Seppa-Bameng belt by road, in particular, made it evident that drones were an absolute necessity,” said Vignesh Santhanam, lead for aerospace and drones at the World Economic Forum.

“Through our learnings in Telangana, we are looking to stress test our systems in Arunachal Pradesh under the liberalised drone regime while factoring in economic principles right from the point of initiation,” he added.
The drone network is being set up on a limited experimental basis to pilot aerial healthcare deliveries in the state. The network would enable diagnostics and emergency treatments in the local health centers.

By enabling care at the local level, the drone network aims to reduce out-of-pocket expenditure (OOPE) for patients, increase immunisation rates and improve welfare gains. This experimental network would be accompanied by an impact evaluation study to understand the cost-benefit and health impact of using drones in India’s public health system.

Pravimal Abhishek, Deputy Commissioner, East Kameng District, said, “The district has a very hilly terrain which makes it difficult to access interior areas, particularly during monsoons. I am sure drone-based drug delivery will be a game changer in strengthening access to healthcare in such remote areas. Hoping that this pilot project would give us the answers and clarity for the future.” The pilot project in East Kameng is made possible by the financial and technical support from SAMRIDH Healthcare Blended Financing Facility – an initiative supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by IPE Global.

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