Drone vaccine delivery

[Deeptech Innovator] How Skye Air Mobility is giving wings to vaccine delivery with drones

With drone tech, Skye Air Mobility solves one of the major challenges plaguing healthcare today—accessibility.

Access to healthcare is a basic right. Therefore, Indian startup ecosystem is looking at the ways to ensure even the remotest corner of the country accesses healthcare. Deep tech does play a role in it. With drone tech becoming prominent, several companies are on a path to experiment with it. And in the need of the hour, companies are racing against time to ensure that the Covid19 vaccines or any other pharmaceutical, pathological requirements reach the remotest geography to benefit the people.

Skye Air is one of the few companies in India which has received the permission to start BVLOS Drone flights as a pilot project and the company is geared up to start the trials soon.

Skye Air also endeavors to bring transformational change in rural and remote healthcare system by helping easy and faster access to vital medical supplies. Capitalizing on its core competency in drone-based delivery, Skye Air Mobility has been at the forefront of various BVLOS trials. It is also developing customized drones for healthcare and delivery use cases. The company is working to integrate drone-based deliveries into Healthcare logistics, Relief logistics, Food & E-commerce logistics, Urban and Defence logistics.

Skye Air Mobility, a drone delivery tech company based out of Bangalore & New Delhi, has recently appointed Wing Commander S Vijay (Veteran) as its Chief Operating Officer.

Drone delivery segment:

Vijay emphasizes that Skye Air is currently focused on the drone delivery segment of the business. The motive lies in the opportunities in the health sector where the emergency medicine, essential vaccines need to be sent to the remotest part of the state.

“For instance, the Government of Telangana, had already planned a particular task, where they wanted to send medicines, vaccines from district headquarter to the remotest of the places using drones. As one of the companies participating in the endeavour our focus primarily is to handle healthcare, emergency and military logistics as they are required to go beyond visual line of sight operations,” he says.

“Drones are required to fly beyond the visible range—500 meters as per DGCA guidelines. Drones are considered for places where it is difficult to reach in a reasonable time. In a rural area or a hilly terrain, a vehicle can take a few hours to reach the destination. Drones ensure faster delivery of essential medicines.”

The Vaccine Project:

The Telangana government, World Economic Forum and Niti Aayog jointly conceived the Medicine from the Sky initiative. Certain remote locations lack the necessary mandated storage conditions for particular vaccines.

“For instance, the Covid19 vaccine is supposed to be maintained at a particular temperature. These types of storage are not available in the rural areas so the vaccine cannot be delivered and kept there. It has to be transported when required.

Vijay states that the necessary permissions with respect to the air space and security for the individual participating in the project has been cleared. During the trial period monitored by the Niti Aayog, the government is planning 2-3 weeks of operational activity. The plan as of now: “The Covid19 vaccine will be transported. As a proof of concept, once the vaccines are received and the temperature conditions are maintained throughout the flight and is deemed safe to administer to the people, a clearance might be given by the concerned authorities,” says Vijay.

There are different consortiums executing the project and the participants include three to four drone tech startups, unmanned traffic management players, medical expert, etc.

And the project isn’t restricted to delivering Covid19 vaccines. The Telangana government, a frontrunner in adopting technology in governance models, plans to adopt it in several other healthcare projects too. For example, “Even in cases of snake bites in certain regions of Telangana certain region the medicines are not readily available. They are always held at a district hospital in the primary health centre or in a district health care center and is difficult to send them via road on time. The government conceived to use drone in Telangana in at least four to five districts and expand it to the entire state,” says Vijay.

The future of drone tech:

Vijay lists the evolution that has helped the industry grow faster: The advanced drones, better sensors, GPS equipment, 3D printing and miniaturization. “The sensor tech helps use artificial intelligence and machine learning. These tools running on the sensors make the applications efficient and productive,” he concludes.

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