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Hepicopter Drones | Delivering COVID-19 Vaccines & Blood in India

Authors : Shreya Basu and Deepa Soman

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Peter Drucker

Prem Kumar Vislawath (Founder of Hepicopter) is a creator. He believes that technology and ingenuity can help us fight and defeat the COVID-19 pandemic. His company, Marut Dronetech, is building use cases to show the potential of their remotely piloted devices, in these times of social distancing and mass lockdowns.

“We are trying the build the healthcare gap in India’a medical service delivery – connecting people, institutions and technology.”

Prem – Dreamer and Disruptor

Prem Kumar Vislawath, founder of Marut Dronetech is a IIT Guwahati alumni. His dream is to provide comprehensive drone solutions to persisting global issues. His startup launched Marut ZAP-India’s first drone for mosquito eradication and AI based disease prediction for dengue and malaria.

Forbes’ The 30 Under 30 Asia 2020 awardee, Prem won Facebook’s – India Innovation Accelerator Program 2019 in AI for Social Good. His company has taken great strides in the fields of sustainable agriculture , scalable reforestation and last-mile medical delivery, earning him the title, “Pride of Telangana“.

Prem is passionate about film-making, bootstrapped Virtual Raasta, a production house, for 8 years. started his career with starting up a production house. He naturally brings high-tech to what he does, Virtual Raasta made VR (Virtual Reality) films for corporates and institutions.

We never thought we would be starting Marut but there a problem we found and we wanted to solve it.“, says Prem. A big unsolved problem, technology design and application, designing a product and service solution, creating a community of collaborators, is a blueprint of Prem’s mission. Prem came as the Lumiere Torchbearer Thursday guest speaker on 7th May 2020 and he is back, one day short of a year to talk about the special focus on Hepicopter and the journey through the unusual year.

Solving Problems

People come across problems and hinderances in their day-to-day lives. Prem reinterprets the Serenity Prayer and wants to change the things no one has changed before. Rather than wait for “someone” to solve a problem and come up with new solutions, Prem wants to create a better future.

“That’s how we got into drones and building technologies, first starting with mosquito control related to malaria and dengue eradication.” Prem is a self-effacing, visionary leader who inspires and invites people to join him in solving problems. Since the problems he seeks to solve are humongous, he instinctively collaborates with institutions, individuals, building teams along the way. Marut Drontech has two batch-mates as co-founders leading Marut Zap, a vertical of Marut Dronetech, focused on the eradication of malaria and dengue program, they collaborated with local governments towards solving this problem on a large scale. Marut Zap has to constantly come up with solutions when they started building drones. “They needed data so we started building IOT (Internet Of Things), and then we built a platform“, says Prem.

Cities like Mumbai, Delhi or Hyderabad municipalities do a sanitation and they deploy people to do the interventions. There are so many issues every single day that the government doesn’t have the time to build something or do something new. They started building their product and the technology behind it and they are still working with a municipality since the past year and a half.

Within Marut Drone Tech, they have verticals for each unique challenge and the nomenclature is a giveaway – Agricopter, Seedcopter, Surveycopter and Hepicopter.

Birth of Hepicopter

In the light of the recent events, drones have taken the centre stage throughout the world. Be it in ensuring disinfection and crowd management during COVID lockdowns or spraying pesticides and using speakers to repel the locust onslaughts. The approvals come at a time when India is looking to ramp up its Covid-19 vaccination programme, as cases continue to surge across the country. To fast track this process considering the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination drive, NITI Aayog became a key partner in the journey of MFTS and convened a round on February 11, 2021 for Operationalizing Drone based Medical Deliveries across India.

The name “Hepicopter” is derived from “Hepius” or “Asclepius” is the Greek God of medicine. “Our drone is also like a helicopter. We wanted to fly for longer range to give access to more people.”

Prem Kumar

How it works

Hepicopter – Medical Delivery drone is accessible through a mobile app to enable medical delivery drone penetrate into remote inaccessible areas where Primary Healthcare Centers can get daily supplies at a press of a button within few minutes Blood, Vaccines, Diagnostic medical samples and Long tail medicine. The delivery works on a hub-and-spoke model. The team gets a message on the inventory needed. This is loaded at the central hub, and the drones take off, after the regular pre-flight tests and checks of wind conditions, audio pilot systems, and GPS tracker. The coordinates are fed into the systems and the health examiner picks up the vials at the drop-off point.

Types of drones at Hepicopter

Cities in contrast to rural areas have private hospitals, where people go for treatment purpose, or blood checks; and also to pharmacies and blood banks. When we started our research and actually saw the number of people dying because of lack of blood, or lack of access to blood on time. There are a lot of gaps in primary healthcare and that is where they come in. Hepicopter is now in collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Government of Telangana, as part of the Medicine from Sky program. They have also partnered with IIT Hyderabad, Indian Institute of Public Health Hyderabad, Apollo Hospitals and more.

“It’s a basic need of everybody to have access to healthcare.”

Prem Kumar Vislawath

Providing in places of Need

Rural areas depend completely on the government infrastructure, and some parts still don’t have any access, even roads. So with building drones, they wanted to provide healthcare essentials to places faster than a 2-wheeler or a 4-wheeler can. With natural disasters and calamities, there are challenges every year. There were floods in Assam and the glacier burst in Uttarakhand, few regions suffer a lot while other places don’t face similar problems. Marut Drone tech decided to use technology to help the places that need it the most. It took a year and a half to go through all the regulations and challenges – mainly not being able to fly larger and longer areas. Visual line of sight is usually allowed in India while flying drones. The last two months, a lot of things have come into place for the firm regarding the regulations and working with Telangana government for medicine and vaccine delivery.

Hepicopter is a partner with an on-ground public health foundation. Since the team is full of engineers, they are growing and learning at the same time finding out more and more about the public health systems. Currently they are equipped for delivering blood, vaccines, diagnostic samples and long-term medicines, but in the future they want to add transportation of organs as well. Today, while transporting organs in the cities like Mumbai and Delhi, they block entire roads which is not feasible.They can solve this problem with the use of technology.

Their Projects

*Wings India 2020

Officials from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, World Economic Forum, Telangana govt, Apollo Hospital, Medicine from Sky team and others were present at the demonstration.

Partnership with Government of Telangana, Apollo Hospitals for feasibility of drone delivery for medical supplies on March 14th, 2020.

*Medicine from the Sky 2021

They are also working on a project called “Medicine from the Sky” in collaboration with the Government of Telangana for medium-mile logistic delivery. The State Government under the plan for Medicine from the Sky will utilize BVLOS flights in Vikarabad district with the Area Hospital as the take-off site and various PHCs and sub-centres as the landing sites.

*NDRF’s relief and rescue operations

They deployed drones to help National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)’s relief and rescue operations at the Chamboli glacier burst site in Uttarakhand.

*Mosquito Control and Disease Prediction

The whole last-line delivery to where it matters, through drones as the vehicle for delivery especially we get the permissions for beyond the line of sight, it can really make life so much simpler in terms of healthcare. It essential that every village has its own vibrant healthcare unit and don’e have to migrate miles to get to the district hospital with better facilities. Marut Drone Tech wants to help the existing healthcare systems already in place because that’s where people already go.

“People go for govt hospitals because they feel it is trustworthy. Making easy access for them is really important, and that is what we have started working for. We are concentrating on the parts where access is the challenge. “.

Prem Kumar Vislawath

Call for Action – Let us Join Hands

Covid has actually helped drones a lot. Because of contactless becoming mainstream, and other factors too. Also the locust infestation, drones can be really effective there. They have been really helpful for the police department for surveillance purposes, to manage the red zone. People want to use new technologies for faster and scalable methods. The Civil Aviation regulatory body has started a separate body called Drone directorate. Earlier, they had to refer to the rules made in the 1950s which has been finally updated now in 2021. They really want the ecosystem to flourish and people to come into this industry, they are way more approachable than before now.

Hepicopter autonomous drones can be dispatched remotely On-Demand or at Scheduled intervals from a Command & Control Center by operators, to the Medical Warehouse, Public Health Centers’, or a location of an incident to collect or provide the medical samples/vaccinations.

Each drone would carry a combination of dummy vials and regular vaccines over the course of the trials and the performance would be recorded in detail and this data would be used to guide further policies regarding full-scale adoption. It will also be beneficial in improving the medical supply chain, especially with a third vaccine expected to be commissioned and millions of doses to be transported across India. The success of this program has the potential to disrupt the healthcare industry and save many lives during emergencies and in less accessible geographies, says Prem.

Funding is still a challenge in India, especially with all that’s going around in the world at present. But Prem is hopeful that people will understand what they do, join the journey, and help them help others.

Slide from Prem’s PPT on Hepicopter

Watch the video here :

Follow Hepicopter on :

Catch the last talk we had with Prem in 2020 about Marut Drones :

Check his initiative on Mosquito Control and Disease Prediction Solutions below :

http://marutzap.com/

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