Monday, June 06, 2022

India's first medical drone corridor likely to link AIIMS Delhi & Jhajjar by year-end; aviation ministry approves, police yet to give nod

New Delhi: India could get its first dedicated medical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) corridor before year-end. This as India’s premier medical institute, AIIMS, could get a drone corridor with its extension campus at Haryana’s Jhajjar before the year-end. If that happens, rushing life-saving supplies from the parent campus to AIIMS Jhajjar — located around 50-km apart with a drive time of about 1.5 hours between the two depending on traffic — will be a matter of minutes.

A senior aviation ministry officials said the ministry and Airports Authority of India have approved (this plan). “AIIMS is awaiting (some) other approvals. Once that happens test flights will be carried out. If all goes well, regular (drone) flights may start in about six months,” the official added.

One of the top officials from AIIMS, who did not want to be quoted, also confirmed this. “We are waiting for an approval from Delhi Police. Once we have it, the drone facility will be launched by the health minister,” he said. Initially, the official added, drones will be used to transport blood samples, blood products and medicines.

“There are some tests that aren’t available at the Jhajjar campus currently. We can use the drones to transport samples to Delhi campus for testing. Similarly, blood products can be transported in case of urgent requirement,” he explained.

Over the past one year, drones have been used to send medical supplies, including Covid vaccines, to remote parts of India.

In coming times, their deployment for rushing life-saving medicines is only going to increase. The tricky part is using them in urban areas, and that too in areas lying in flight path of airports.

“There have been numerous occasions when local police across Indian cities have created traffic corridors for vehicles to rush freshly harvested organs from airports for being transplanted to critically ill patients in city hospitals. Given the state of traffic in all big Indian cities, this is not an easy thing to do. Drones can do the same job in peak-hour traffic too,” Arjun Aggarwal, MD of drone major Aerodyne India group, told TOI.

06/06/22 Saurabh Sinha & Durgesh Nandan Jha/Times of India

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