ICMR delivers medications via drone in tough terrains of Himachal Pradesh

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The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Thursday successfully transported over 100 units of essential medications for 20 kilometres in Lahaul and Spiti district using drone in a test run.

The ICMR is presently conducting a feasibility study in Lahaul & Spiti district, Himachal Pradesh, to explore the transportation of vital medical resources, including medications, diagnostic blood samples, and sputum, via drones.

During the inaugural flight, more than 100 units of essential medications including Antibiotics, Antipyretics, and Multivitamins were transported from the Police grounds in Keylong to the Tholang PHC, which is approximately 20 kilometres away from the district hospital, reducing travel time from 120 minutes via road to 26 minutes by drone. On its return journey, the drone carried TB sputum samples, blood samples, and various diagnostic specimens back to the Keylong Centre for thorough analysis.

“This ‘i-DRONE’ was first used during Covid-19 pandemic by ICMR for distributing vaccines to unreachable areas. Earlier this year, we were able to successfully complete the trials for the delivery of blood and blood-related products, which are supposed to be kept at a low temperature. In the present study, we are aiming to deliver the medications and diagnostic samples at subzero temperature areas and difficult regions with altitudes over 12,000 ft. This is an initiative towards making an impact in the lives of people residing in remote areas”, said Dr. Rajiv Bahl, Secretary DHR and Director-General, ICMR.

The IMCR said that throughout the comprehensive testing period, scientists have identified numerous technical and operational hurdles that local communities encounter when trying to deliver essential medical items, particularly in remote and challenging geographical landscapes. “The study’s findings will provide valuable scientific insights and will lay down the foundation for further exploration of the utility of drones in these areas. Additionally, the research will determine whether drones can serve as a support for conventional medical supplies in the difficult geographical conditions prevalent in these regions”, the ICMR said.