Davos WEF 2018: Can Drones Be The Answer To India’s Healthcare Hurdles?

India could become a global leader in drone adoption with some “calculated risks”, says Timothy Reuter.

A drone flies during a demonstration. (Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg)
A drone flies during a demonstration. (Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg)

India has an opportunity to become a global leader in the adoption of commercial drones for delivery of healthcare services if it is willing to take some “calculated risks”, according to Timothy Reuter, project head of civil drones for the World Economic Forum.

“The Prime Minister has an initiative to vaccinate every child. And I think the chaos on the roads is why the technology is important. Because in many congested and rural areas you can take a very long time to travel even short distances,” Reuter told BloombergQuint on the sidelines of WEF 2018 at Davos.

So if you can take things off the ground and into the air, you have the opportunity to leapfrog existing systems.
Timothy Reuter, Project Head-Civil Drones, WEF

India’s civil aviation ministry has already released draft regulations to allow drones to be flown, as long as they are being remotely piloted by a human. Fully autonomous drones have not been permitted in the draft. The use of drones at night or beyond the visual line of sight has also not been allowed.

The latter, Reuter said, is a key aspect of making drones viable. “In order to be economical you have to be able to fly beyond visual line of sight and have multiple aircraft per pilot. And that’s something most countries are still struggling to implement,” he said.

Reuter cited the example of Rwanda which has integrated drones into its countrywide medical supply chain, using them to deliver blood to remote areas. Even Switzerland is moving medical supply between hospitals by using drones. “In that context, we're going to see an expansion in drone delivery,” he added.