Drone delivers life-saving meds to remote NE village

Drone delivers life-saving medicines to remote Meghalaya village

A journey that takes four hours due to poor road connectivity was cut to 25 minutes by the drone

A view of the drone e-VTOL drone, AquilaX2. Credit: Meghalaya government

A public health centre in Maweit village of Meghalaya's West Khasi Hills district on Friday received medicines from Nongstoin district hospital in about 25 minutes — a process that usually takes four hours — thanks to a drone delivery system.

Hybrid e-VTOLs [Vertical Take-Off and Landing Vehicles] of TechEagle, a Gurugram-based tech start-up, which partnered with the Meghalaya government and Smart Village Movement, an NGO, carried out the country's first hybrid e-VTOL drone delivery of lifesaving medicines to the village.

Doctors at Nongstoin district hospital handed over the medicines to TechEagle's team, following which an e-VTOL drone, AquilaX2, took off vertically like a helicopter and then transformed into a fixed-wing mode upon reaching the mission height. The drone covered an aerial distance of 25 kilometres at 90kmph speed to reach Maweit PHC in 25 minutes. 

Lauding the successful use of drone technology for the delivery of medicines in a hard-to-reach village, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said the government would try to use the same for the benefit of agriculture and allied sectors. 

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Founder and CEO of TechEagle, Vikram Singh Meena, said, “Aerial routes are the best possible ways to access hard-to-reach places in hilly terrains of the Northeast. Today, we are proud of the fact that TechEagle’s made in India Hybrid e-VTOL is solving grassroots problems faced by citizens living in a remote area. We have reduced delivery time from four hours to 25 minutes. e-VTOL drone technology is going to leave a huge impact to enable better healthcare in the remotest parts of the world.”

The start-up, which is building a drone logistics airline, is focussing on consistent, safe and reliable distribution of life-saving drugs (medicines, vaccines, blood and other medical essentials) in several parts of the state with the reverse logistics of samples for quick diagnosis.  

Hybrid e-VTOLs are Vertical Take-Off and Landing Vehicles that take off vertically like a helicopter and transform into fixed-wing objects (like a passenger aircraft) for travelling longer distances at high speeds. Upon reaching its destination, the drone returns to the helicopter mode for landing. TechEagle’s in-house e-VTOLs, Aquila X2, has been developed such that it can operate in varied geographical conditions, including the mountainous Northeast, the company said. 

Maweit is a village with a population of around 600 population, under Nongstoin block in West Khasi Hills district. Transportation of essential items takes a lot of time due to poor road connectivity. 

Tulenam Laloo, project lead (healthcare), Smart Village Movement, said, “The use of drone-based deliveries in healthcare is a promising means to augment supply chain management and support last-mile access. Meghalaya and other Northeastern states would immensely benefit from its application, considering the unique terrain.”

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