#TECH: Meraque and Pharmaniaga team up to deploy medicine-delivering drones in flood-hit areas

KUALA LUMPUR: Meraque Services Sdn Bhd (Meraque), a Malaysian drone tech company partnered with Pharmaniaga Bhd (Pharmaniaga) to deliver critical medicines to flood victims across Kuala Langat using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

The floods caused by heavy rains displaced tens of thousands of people and left roads, access to medical facilities and hospitals inundated. This caused many people to be stranded with no access to essential items and healthcare services.

On Dec 22, 2021, led by Meraque's team of pilots, four drones took to the skies for three days, delivering critical medical supplies by Pharmaniaga to over 30 homes within the vicinity of Bandar Seri Ehsan, Banting. The drones flew over 8.6km, equivalent to over 25km using actual road access. The drones are able to carry 15 kg in payload and travel up to 20km.

Meraque chief executive officer, Md Razalee Ismail said: "When the flood happened, we were contacted by government agencies who were coordinating relief efforts. We leapt into action to do our part. We got together with our partner Pharmaniaga who immediately deployed their team to support this effort. We would like to express our gratitude to all relevant authorities, especially CAAM and MCDF for providing us with the approvals and for helping us ensure safe deployment of our drones."

In ensuring the safety and security of the unmanned air services during the three-day flood-relief initiative, Meraque and Pharmaniaga worked closely with Malaysia's technical regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) and Malaysia Civil Defence Force (MCDF) who supported the initiative and ensured all necessary safety requirements and regulations were met.

"The successful drone deployment and delivery of medicines is proof of concept of the use of drones in pharmaceutical-grade medical delivery. Even with unfavourable weather conditions, geographical challenges and limited landing space, this operation proved to be a success. It is more cost and time effective in comparison to traditional emergency modes of delivery, without compromising on safety, efficacy and quality of the medicines by maintaining product temperature specification. Drones for medical delivery use are becoming widely accepted across the globe and are rapidly revolutionising the healthcare landscape by making faster delivery of critical life-saving medicines. In Malaysia, not only can drones be deployed in emergency situations, but they can also be used for more rapid instances to deliver vaccines and medications to remote areas more speedily," he added.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Civil Defence Force spokesman Lt Col (CD) Lokman Hakim bin Abdul Rahman said: "Our team was deployed to coordinate and ensure all the drone flights and deliveries were made in accordance with the Civil Aviation Regulation 2016. Situations like this can be tricky and plugged with vulnerability for drone flights especially with the bad weather coupled with an unmapped area. We are glad that this operation was a success and the families were able to receive the medications. This has proven that urban air mobility is a viable flood-relief delivery method for medications that may save lives. Our team was stationed at the delivery area to receive the medical supplies with drones.

Medical personnel were available at the site to ensure the medicines were distributed safely at the flood relief centre. Pharmaniaga personnel provided the essential medical supplies for the operation. Meraque is currently a participating company in the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) spearheaded by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI). Meraque develops local talents that build their own Hybrid Drone Spraying solutions for the agriculture sector and customised enterprise software solutions and bespoke services for clients such as Sime Darby Plantation, DBKL, Boustead Holdings Berhad and Pharmaniaga.