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In a First, Drone Used to Transport Blood from Remote Health Centre in Uttarakhand to Tehri Hospital

The blood unit was transported from a primary health centre in Nandgaon to the district hospital’s blood bank 32 km away. The drone made the journey in 18 minutes compared to 50-60 minutes via road.

Anupam Trivedi | News18.com

Updated:June 7, 2019, 7:39 PM IST
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In a First, Drone Used to Transport Blood from Remote Health Centre in Uttarakhand to Tehri Hospital
The drone that was used on Thursday to transport the unit of blood.
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Dehradun: In what is being called a first of its kind development, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) successfully transported a single unit of blood from a remote primary health centre in Uttarakhand’s Tehri district. Experts say the use of drones in healthcare could be a game-changer in states that are particularly geographically difficult to traverse.

Nikhil Upadhye, an alumni of IIT Kanpur, asserted that Uttarakhand is the first state where the pilot project to transport blood has been undertaken. Upadhye now runs a company called Cdspace Robotics Limited.

According to Dr SS Pangti, a senior physician at Tehri district hospital, District Magistrate Sarika is the brainchild behind the idea of using drones in healthcare.

“As part of the health project, a blood unit was transported on Thursday from Nandgaon, a primary health centre, to the district hospital’s blood bank. Nandgaon is 32 km away and it takes around 50-60 minutes to reach the district hospital, but the drone took just 18 minutes to transport blood without any loss,” Dr Pangti told News18.

In a bid to further check the drone’s reliability, similar flights will be undertaken in Tehri over the coming weeks, he added.

Upadhye’s company has indigenously developed a drone at IIT Kanpur’s incubation centre for carrying payloads. He said the drone can carry up to 500 grams and fly 50 km on the single charge.

“The drone can carry four blood units of 50 ml each with the supportive cold chain (required to keep blood and its by-products cool). The drone can fly easily in light wind conditions,” he said.

The health sector in Uttarakhand is in an abysmally poor state – several hospitals and primary health centres lack the required facilities and backup.

Professor Durgesh Pant, director at Dehradun-based Uttarakhand Science Education and Research Centre (USERC), backed the idea of flying drones. “It’s a game-changer in a state like Uttarakhand,” said Pant who is involved in scientific projects on using drones. He added that drones are changing fast -- newer machines have a higher load-carrying capacity and are also operational in adverse weather conditions.

The drone that transported the blood unit in Tehri costs around Rs 10 lakh — Dr Pangti flagged the price as a concern.

However, Upadhye said, “The cost doesn’t matter considering the usefulness of flying machines.”

Worldwide drones are used in several odd works like aerial photography, videography, studying weather pattern, in rescue operations, policing, sports etc.

(With inputs from Saurabh Singh in Tehri)

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