The SAMRIDH Healthcare Blended Finance Facility, a multi-stakeholder innovation and financing platform supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by IPE Global, in collaboration with a leading Indian startup, Redwing, launched a pilot drone network to enhance accessibility and affordability of healthcare services in the Rayagada district of Odisha. This pilot programme will use Redwing’s electric hybrid drones to deliver medicine and medical equipment by air to isolated areas in Rayagada District, Odisha.
Rayagada, a predominantly tribal district, faces significant challenges in accessing healthcare services. Of the 3,234 villages in the district, more than 800 are hard to reach and more than 160 face seasonal cut-offs, isolating them for certain periods of the year. By improving the aerial delivery of essential diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines to primary and community healthcare centres, this initiative will reduce out-of-pocket expenditures and dramatically reduce the time for testing, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases, resulting in improved healthcare delivery in the rural and tribal areas of the region.
Swadha Dev Singh, District Collector, Rayagada, said, “Rayagada has many hard-to-reach areas in different blocks like Gudari and Kalyansingpur. These interior regions have power, access, and infrastructure challenges. Drone-based medical delivery will be a game changer in strengthening healthcare in such areas. Patients will now have access to the best of diagnostics and on-demand medical care irrespective of where they live in the district. We are committed to providing the best quality healthcare to the people of Rayagada.”
USAID/India Health Office Director Michelle Lang-Alli said, “The US and India are partnering to increase access to and quality of healthcare for the most vulnerable, especially those in hard-to-reach and remote areas. Aerial delivery makes possible new solutions to healthcare challenges in rural, tribal, and hard-to-reach locations, with the potential to both extend care to remote communities and save lives, with applicability not just in India, but across the world. This also marks an expansion of the already successful healthcare drone model, supported by USAID and Redwing Labs, which has accelerated tuberculosis diagnostics and COVID-19 testing in other rural areas of India.”
Namrata Chindarkar, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, said, “There are still parts of rural India that lack timely access to medical services such as diagnostics and vaccines. Drones have the potential to overcome this challenge, but evidence is needed to understand their impact. An academic lens will enable policymakers to understand the cost-effectiveness, replicability, and scalability of this intervention and IIMA is pleased to be a collaborator.”
Kundan Madireddy, Head of Partnerships, Redwing, said, “We are hopeful that this experimental pilot will benefit the rural and tribal populations in Rayagada district and kickstart mass adoption of drones in the public health system. Drones are uniquely placed to take high-quality healthcare closer to people and reduce out-of-pocket expenditure to the tune of thousands of rupees for each family. This pilot network is aligned with the Odisha state government’s 5T Vision and dream of the Hon’ble Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to use technology to empower over 40 million people of Odisha. The use of drones in the remotest districts will not only usher in a healthcare revolution but also create thousands of technology jobs for rural and tribal youth across the state. Odisha state is a torchbearer – what Odisha does, the rest of India will follow. It will no longer be India’s best-kept secret. We are pleased and grateful to the Rayagada district administration, USAID, and SAMRIDH for their active collaboration in this project.”
The pilot project will use Redwing’s ‘made in India’ electric hybrid Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) drones. Key collaborators on the project include the District Administration of Rayagada and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, which will help evaluate the impact and feasibility of the initiative.