DEHRADUN: In what could be a possible game-changer in the delivery of health services in rural areas, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in a first-of-its-kind experiment transported blood samples for over 36 kilometres from a remote primary health centre (PHC) in Tehri district of Uttarakhand to the district hospital.
The drone was able to accomplish the task in a fraction of the time it would have taken to bring the blood units by road, thereby raising hopes among healthcare providers that the experiment will prove to be a big boon for millions of people living in remote areas which lack proper roads as well as healthcare facilities.
Dr SS Pangti, chief medical superintendent of the Burari district hospital in Tehri, where the drone delivered the blood samples procured at the PHC in Nandgaon, told TOI that the initiative was part of an on-going tele-medicine project in Tehri Garhwal.
“The drone travelled almost 36 kilometres from Nandgaon to Burari hospital in 18 minutes while it takes around 70 to 100 minutes to cover this distance by road. The blood samples were carried along with a cooling kit which ensured that they did not get spoilt,” said Dr Pangti.
The drone was manufactured by CDSpace Robotics Limited, a company owned by Nikhil Upadhye, an alumni of IIT Kanpur. The company works in building next-generation drones for future transportation.
Talking to TOI, Upadhye said, “The drone that we have manufactured has the capacity of transporting emergency medicines as well as blood units with cooling kit. In total, it can carry 500 gm of weight and can travel upto 50 km on a single charge.” He added that the tentative cost of one such drone is around Rs 10 lakh.
More trial runs are expected in the next few weeks with transportation of emergency medicines being tried next, said Upadhye. Meanwhile, medical fraternity professionals said that the successful use of drones in facilitating tele-medicine could open up new vistas for patients in hilly areas which are plagued by lack of adequate medical infrastructure as well as health services.
Speaking to TOI, Dr Ashutosh Sayana, principal of Government Doon Medical College & Hospital, said, “We have experienced that many blood samples become unusable when they are brought after travelling long distances from hills to the labs in cities. If usage of drone has reduced the travelling time drastically, nothing can be better than this. Also, this would be a boon for accident victims in the hills as they will not die due to scarcity of blood.”