Researchers at the Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad (IIPH-H) are working on a drone delivery system for medical products which is expected to be time and cost effective compared to transportation by road.
The Digital Drone based Real Time Advanced Medical Modular logistics system (2 DREAM) model envisages delivering medical products to the point of need or utilisation on a drone, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator- Health Informatics, IIPH, Suresh Munuswamy told news agency PTI. The medical products include blood samples, vaccines, medicines, he said.
Munuswamy said the institute is working on developing the design of the drone (suitable for the purpose), the specifications, including the distance the drone is supposed to travel, and the approximate size of the payload (of the drone) i.e carrying capacity of the drone. "(We are working on) One is coming out with specifications, second is working on the design part, third is looking for partners who actually have these technologies and bring them together," he said.
The specifications are needed as there are drones which travel varied distances, he said. The medical products are proposed to be carried in a modular purpose built digital carrier box where temperature and the payload carried is maintained, monitored and recorded continuously.
The institute, which comes under the aegis of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), has partnered with the US-based Johns Hopkins University to develop temperature-controlled carrier box.
The drone-based medical logistics would be time and cost effective compared to travelling by road though it has weaknesses like limited payload. It is time effective as drones can reach the destination fast, Mr Munuswamy said.
It is cost effective as it reduces the cost of public health service delivery (costs of maintaining various facilities and manpower at multiple locations to provide medical care all over the state), he said. Meanwhile, the researchers are also trying to sensitise the government on the concept as a valuable idea.
"We are not hoping drones are going to fly, may be six months or perhaps even a year. But, this has to be considered as a long term approach," he said. "May be in the next two years or even three years, if you are even thinking of providing universal coverage (for healthcare), you need to start the work now," he said.
The researchers need permission from government to test and as per present regulations, there is no restriction on government to use the drone. The restriction is on private individuals and NGOs not to use the drones, Mr Munuswamy noted. The government itself can take the lead and do the testing, he said adding "We are happy to give the technical support..."