NITI Aayog to expand ‘Medicines from the Sky’ project

The industry core group was commissioned with Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), NITI Aayog, and the Government of Telangana.

NITI Aayog

Last Updated on March 14, 2022 by The Health Master

NITI Aayog, the policy think tank of the Government of India, is looking at expanding its “Medicines from the Sky” project, which uses unmanned aerial systems for the delivery of vaccines in remote areas, to the North-Eastern parts of the country.

Medicines from the Sky

It is also exploring use of emerging technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) in medical diagnostics.

NITI Aayog, in collaboration with the Government of Telangana and the World Economic Forum (WEF), launched the ‘Medicines from the Sky’ project on piloting the use of unmanned aerial systems for the delivery of vaccines in remote areas.

These drone trials are focused on laying the groundwork for a drone delivery network that will improve access to vital healthcare supplies for remote and vulnerable communities. The scope includes deliveries of MMR (maternal mortality rate), flu and C-19 vaccines.

In September 2021, Telangana became the first Indian State to deliver vaccines using Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drones in the Vikarabad District. Eight participating consortia delivered vaccines using BVLOS drones. Sixteen corridor air envelopes were designated for the experiments.

The industry core group was commissioned with Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), NITI Aayog, and the Government of Telangana.

“There was comprehensive data capture for decisions and improvisations. A record 26-km route was covered for the delivery of 300 tubervac doses, reducing the delivery time by approximately 50%. Currently, discussions on permanent operationalization of the corridors are in progress,” said NITI Aayog’s Annual Report for 2021-22.

“A similar project proposal is under discussion with the Governments of the North-Eastern States and Himachal Pradesh,” it added.

Under its Frontier Technology Vertical, it is currently working on policy documents on various areas including building bio-banks.

The pilot projects it has taken up include a study conducted on clinical decision support system, AI in anthropometric, among others.

A study to assess the feasibility of the use of declarative AI-based Clinical Decision Support System and pathway technology for maternal and paediatric health journeys was carried out in collaboration with Lady Hardinge Medical College, Elsevier-Relix and Piramal Swasthya.

The project was implemented in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh; it concluded in May 2021, with the project report released subsequently.

Identification of low birth-weight babies using AI-enabled and smartphone-based anthropometry for timely medical interventions was undertaken under its leadership.

The research study on the same is being conducted in the Aspirational Districts of Balrampur, Uttar Pradesh, and Baran, Rajasthan, in collaboration with Wadhwani AI, Piramal Swasthya and PGIMER, Chandigarh.

A pilot is being implemented in Moga and Mohali, Punjab, to study the use and adoption of AI platforms for early detection and screening of non- communicable diseases such as diabetic retinopathy in a public health setting.

NITI Aayog is also conducting discussions in the direction of specific sectoral approaches for responsible AI, following its efforts including the release of the National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence (NSAI) in 2018 and subsequent launch of a two-part strategy document focusing on principles of responsible management of AI in the country.

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