The Government of Maharashtra and Zipline, a national-scale drone delivery service, announced a partnership to use a logistics network of autonomous delivery drones to help transform emergency medicine and critical care. The launch of the initiative will be supported through a grant from SII (Serum Institute of India), the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world.
An official statement issued in Pune on Monday said the new service, which is expected to launch operations in early 2020, is part of the Maharashtra government’s vision of using drone delivery to establish universal, seven-days-a-week access to lifesaving and critical medicines for each of its 120 million residents over the coming years. Zipline drones will make on-demand and emergency deliveries of blood products, vaccines and life-saving medications.
The state government’s vision is for Zipline to establish a total of 10 distribution centres across Maharashtra in phases over the next several years. The government’s goal is to put almost all of its residents within minutes of a lifesaving medical delivery by drone. In the first phase of operations, two distribution centres — located near Pune and Nandurbar — will be established to service public health facilities in those regions beginning in early 2020.
The operations in Pune and Nandurbar will be financed through a grant from SII. Future distribution centres will be financed by the state government and other private and philanthropic partners. To increase access and reduce medical waste, key stock of blood products, vaccines and life-saving medications will be stored at Zipline’s distribution centres for just-in-time delivery. Health workers will place orders by text message or call and promptly receive their deliveries in 30 minutes on average.
The drones require no additional infrastructure or manpower at the clinics they serve. The drones fly autonomously and can carry 1.8 kg of cargo, cruising at 110 km an hour, and have a round trip range of 160 km even in high speed winds and rain.
Each of the two Zipline distribution centres in Maharashtra will cover a delivery area of more than 20,000 km. They will collectively be capable of serving up to 20 million people. Deliveries are made from the sky, with the drone descending to a safe height above the ground and releasing a box of medicine by parachute to a designated spot at the health centres it serves, the statement added.