Tech-Revolution! Heres How Drones Are Transforming Medical & Agriculture Sectors In North-Eastern India

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The Logical Indian Crew

Tech-Revolution! Here's How Drones Are Transforming Medical & Agriculture Sectors In North-Eastern India

Flying past infrastructural and geographical challenges, regions of Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh have begun revolutionising their agriculture and healthcare systems through first-of-its-kind drone stations.

About half of the world's population has limited access to resources such as healthcare and markets due to their infrastructural and geopolitical barriers. Reaching out to the population within these regions posed a huge challenge until technology was brought into the equation.

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), is an unmanned system that can be operated remotely for various purposes. Many states began deploying these drones to fly long distances and over terrains considered challenging, to take resources to them. The system has been able to ramp up national systems and improve the services to reach within remote communities. Over time, through active collaborations between government, humanitarian aid organisations, funders and drone system partners, many services that were earlier limited can now reach remote and indigenous communities worldwide.

This form of service has been continually evolving and was seen to pick pace during the pandemic to carry vaccines to several regions. It has now expanded to address a larger scope of the technology, especially in the northeastern regions. As a result, the high terrains of Arunachal Pradesh received its first-ever drone station to deliver medicines, and Kinnaur would soon be transporting its famous apples using drones.

'Medicines From The Sky'

According to World Economic Forum, the majority of India's one billion citizens are served by roughly 30,000 government-run primary healthcare centres, but at least five to ten per cent of them are inaccessible to medical suppliers owing to hurdles caused by geographic locations and natural causes. In such spaces, drones are known to bridge the gaps caused by infrastructural and accessibility barriers.

They deliver vital goods to vulnerable communities and can also carry the goods they produce to different parts of the country. One such example is when Doctors Without Borders used drones to transport vaccines for tuberculosis in remote regions of Papua New Guinea and Ebola in Liberia and GAVI. The new drone rules issued in India in 2021 were seen as a positive step due to this very reason, as it would enable deploying drones to provide services.

For the same reason, it was considered a historical day in Meghalaya on December 2022 when they set up the first-ever drone station to deliver medicines. Rejoicing over the decision, the civil aviation ministry tweeted, "Drone supply of medicines to a primary health centre in Pedaldoba, Meghalaya is a proud moment."

According to a report by The Hindu, the pedaldoba village, despite having a primary healthcare centre, has faced difficulties in maintaining a proper healthcare supply chain, courtesy of its geographical challenges. With the drone station being set up and the first batch of medicines being dispersed, the village and the entire state have received a ray of hope. The pilot project of drone delivery was launched by the end of November month, and the news regarding it was first taken to the public by Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma through Twitter.

Lauding the state health department and other organisations involved in the project, he said that the technology would positively "transform the healthcare supply chain to a hard-to-reach population." The drone, a certiplane X3 designed under a start-up, took about half an hour to deliver the payload at the Pedaldoba Primary Health Centre, cutting short the time by almost two hours if taken by road.

On similar grounds, a fleet of high-capacity drones is being planned to help the State government scale up air transportation for farmers in remote areas. In regions of Kinnaur, this has already turned into a reality.

Farming Revolutionised

Many times, there have been reports on how farm produce went to waste, and farmers faced large-scale losses due to transportation constraints to reach the markets. Apple growers in the inaccessible tribal regions of Kinnaur district also faced the concern for the longest time.

Considering several such factors, the state government has given the nod to Drone Policy 2022, intending to propagate technology for economic prosperity, especially within the agriculture and horticulture sector. As a result, a new revolution is in the air for the farming sector, with drone technology enabling the transportation of apples in the region.

Successful trials were conducted within the Rohan Kanda village in Kinnaur district, where about 20-kilogram apple boxes were transported across a distance of 12 kilometres from an orchard to the main road in six minutes. The project was conducted in collaboration with the Vegrow apple procurement agency and Skyeair. They are currently in talks to scale up the project to lift about 200 kg of apple boxes in one trip.

The regions of Rohan Kanda and Chota Kanda were specifically picked out for the project trials as these villages have no road connectivity and take over four hours for one round trip to the market and back. A report by the New Indian Express quoted an apple grower, Manoj Mehta, saying that this process was time-consuming and compromised the freshness of the fruit. With the drone trials yielding success, it has rekindled hope among the apple growers of timely, safe transportation and reduced overall transport and labour cost, especially around snow seasons.

Also Read: 'Medicines From The Sky': In A First, Drone Delivers Life-Saving Drugs To Remote Areas Of Arunachal Pradesh

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Writer : Laxmi Mohan Kumar
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Editor : Shiva Chaudhary
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Creatives : Laxmi Mohan Kumar

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