Its promoters claim that in a period of six months the un-manned aerial vehicle would be capable of transporting human organs, cutting time and saving precious lives.
At present, the drones are capable of supplying medical aid kits up to 100 kilometres away. “The crux is to increase the load so that vital organs, like the human heart, can be transported,” says scientist K Ramachandra from the National Design and Research Forum (NDRF).
Ramachandra who is spearheading the Rs 100-crore National Programme for Micro Air Vehicles (NP-Micav) says that since organs like the heart can be preserved for longer time - they are the most viable for long-distance drone transportation.
Under his mentorship - two Bengaluru-based start-ups have designed models capable of carrying out the task. Nagendran, founder and director of Throttle Aerospace Station Pvt. Ltd and Neeraj from Agragami Applied Aeronautics feel that drones would be of great help to people as well as hospitals as many patients are not able to make it to hospital on time.
This is our first step towards delivering medical aid. We are planning to develop a mechanism whereby a drone can even transfer a patient to the nearest hospital. We are working towards that,” says Neeraj.
Neeraj, whose company uses drones for agricultural purposes and is already in partnership with government agencies for disaster relief says - “We have a limit of transporting 10kg weight. Whichever organ suits that limit, we can transport it in half the time. Also, 90% of components are made in India and only 10% is borrowed”.
Transporting organs through a green corridor is cumbersome, because police protection and unhindered traffic access is required. There are time-limits for preserving organs - a heart can be preserved only for 10 hours and a liver for 12.
“We have received a tremendous response from the medical faculty,” says Ramachandran, adding that he is in talks with senior heart surgeon Dr. Devi Shetty about this project.
The scientists and entrepreneurs however said what is bogging down the project is the uncertainty on the part of Director General of civil aviations (DGCA). Based on the regulator's response, they might have to modify their drones.
“Another aspect is the cost of the parts. Unless we start manufacturing them in India - it will always be an issue” says Kota Harinarayan, the father of India's indigenous fighter Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
“Our next step will be to build insect drones which can be used to rescue someone buried inside a rubble,” he adds.