For the first time in a difficult hilly terrain like Uttarakhand, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), popularly called drone, recently successfully carried blood sample from primary health centre (PHC) in Nandgaon in Uttarakhand’s Tehri district, to the district hospital in Tehri’s Baurari.
On June 5, the Tehri district administration in collaboration with CDSpace Robotics Private Limited, a start-up by Nikhil Upadhye and Krishnaraj, both IIT Kanpur alumni, carried out the test where a blood sample was transported between the two healthcare centres in 18 minutes. Considering the difficult terrain, by road the sample would take at least two hours to reach Baurari, which is 32-km from Nandgaon.
Dr S S Pangty, in-charge of the Baurari district hospital, said, “The experiment was carried out under the ‘555’ telemedicine scheme in Tehri, which was initiated about two years ago. The idea to use drones for healthcare services was of the (Tehri) district magistrate.”
Tehri District Magistrate Sonika told The Indian Express that she had been trying to engage drones for healthcare services after learning about similar initiatives in a few other countries.
“I was wanting to engage drones for healthcare services for the past two-three years. That’s why I entered into talks with the start-up (CDSpace Robotics). At this stage, it is only a pilot project, so the team didn’t charge us any money. We gave them all administrative support to carry out the experiment. Now that the experiment is successful, I have suggested some changes in the drone, and the team will return in July after making those changes,” Sonika said, adding that more experiments regarding checking viability of transporting blood samples and medicines will be carried out in Tehri from July.
Upadhye from CDSpace Robotics said the drones are capable of carrying up to 500gm over 50km.
“In the blood sample that was transported, we maintained cold chain with specialised ice pouch so that the sample remnains cold throughout the flight. The drone carried a total weight 350gms,” Upadhye said.
Considering the benefits of such drones that can carry emergency medicines and blood samples across difficult terrains, it is a “much needed” initiative, and the success of the experiment will provide a “big boost” to healthcare services in hilly areas, claimed Upadhye.
The cost of one such drone is between Rs 10-12 lakhs, he said.