Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Drones to deliver medicines in India by 2020

California-based Zipline will provide on-demand medical assistance through its drone delivery service in India, with the aim to provide instant aid to remote areas

Naini Thaker
Published: Sep 20, 2019 12:11:24 PM IST
Updated: Sep 20, 2019 12:49:53 PM IST

Drones to deliver medicines in India by 2020Image: Zipline

Access to the right medication at an appropriate time has been a struggle in remote locations. But now there’s hope. After successfully providing on-demand medical assistance in Rwanda and Ghana through the world’s first and only national-scale drone delivery service technology, California-based automated logistics company Zipline is now setting up operations in India.

The service—in partnership with the Maharashtra government—is likely to start early next year. “Millions across the world die each year because they can’t get the medicine they need when they want it,” says Keller Rinaudo, CEO, Zipline. “Instant drone delivery can help solve that problem. We hope to ensure that millions of people have on-demand, instant access to blood, vaccines and critical medicines they need to stay healthy and alive.”

Justin Hamilton, head of global communications & public affairs at Zipline, says: “If a mother in childbirth begins to haemorrhage and needs blood, doctors can WhatsApp Zipline. The closest distribution centre will load the required blood type into a box with a parachute on a drone. The package is likely to reach in 30 minutes instead of 4-6 hours.”

The drones have a capacity of 1.8 kg and are expected to take off from and land at Zipline distribution centres only, requiring no additional infrastructure or manpower. 

The initiative is expected to be rolled out in phases; the first two distribution centres are likely to be set up in Pune and Nandurbar. The launch will be supported through a grant from the Serum Institute of India, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world. “Our partnership with the Serum Institute is much broader; way beyond our tie-up in Maharashtra. We are working with them to expand this technology to all of India. As we expand, we will also serve private health facilities,” says Hamilton. “These drones are like sky ambulances on their way to help save someone’s life.”