The government is gearing up to deploy drones to distribute medical supplies across the islands, Minister of Health Dr Abdulla Khaleel has revealed.

During a recent interview with a local media outlet, Khaleel said the government is pursuing more streamlined methods to deliver medicine to hospitals and healthcare centres scattered across the atolls. The initiative is slated to commence within the first half of this year, and the ministry is working alongside the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), the Maldives Civil Aviation Authority (MCAA), and the Maldives Police Service (MPS), he added.

“In our pursuit of efficiency, we are revising our system to enhance medicine delivery across the islands. We are on the brink of initiating drone operations. We aim to launch these services within six months,” stated Dr. Khaleel.

The concept of employing drone technology for inter-island transportation of medical supplies was previously explored by the former administration led by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. However, the Solih administration had set its sights on commencing the supply of laboratory samples between the islands and healthcare facilities to strengthen laboratory services.

Drone trials were conducted in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll in August 2023, and the Ministry of Transport of the preceding administration had announced its intention to start issuing licences for civil drone operations before the conclusion of 2023. In addition, the MCAA had enacted guidelines on employing drone technology for such purposes.

The adoption of drone technology to transport medical supplies is already being implemented in several countries, particularly for deliveries in rural areas. The inaugural drone delivery sanctioned by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took place in Wise County, Virginia. In other instances, drones are supplanting helicopters to deliver blood to rural clinics in Rwanda, while in Australia, Rwanda, Tanzania, China, Ghana, and Vanuatu, drones are already delivering life-saving supplies to remote hospitals far from urban centres.