In the near future, a drone might be used for faster blood delivery, a senior official said earlier this week after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) successfully conducted a successful trial. This trial was part of the national mission of expanding the drone ecosystem in India.
The i-DRONE was first used by ICMR during the covid-19 pandemic for distributing vaccines to hard-to-reach areas. The inaugural trial flight to carry blood and blood-related items transported 10 units of blood samples between the Government Institute of Medical Sciences, Greater Noida, and Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, according to a report in the Press Trust of India (PTI).
Blood and blood-related products should ideally be kept at a low temperature. The experiment showed that the low temperature can be maintained and there was also no damage to the products transported. "We sent another sample through an ambulance and if there are no differences in the samples sent using the two modes then drones will be used all over India," said Dr Rajiv Bahl, the director general of ICMR, as reported by PTI. Developing indigenous capacities in research and introducing innovations and technologies in the mainstream could help achieve possible solutions, he added.
According to Bahl, technology and digitisation have boosted the manufacturing of vaccines and the development of rapid delivery mechanism. The trial was a path-breaking validation study undertaken for the first time in India and run collaboratively by ICMR, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, Government Institute of Medical Sciences, Greater Noida, and Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida.
Some countries are already using drones to deliver blood products, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and even organs to remote, rural areas or areas with poor infrastructure, according to the PTI report. For instance, in Ghana, drone blood delivery for laboratory samples and emergency purposes is available for thousands of health facilities. In the US, drones are highly regulated and air traffic is more congested. Hence, the feasibility of using drones for blood delivery is still being assessed.
Delivering blood using drones, especially to remote areas, could also help save more lives. Last year, a study published in Lancet Global Health analysed about 13,000 drone orders fulfilled by Zipline in Rwanda between 2017 and 2019 and found that half of them took 41 minutes or less to deliver by drone. By road, it would have taken at least two hours. Moreover, reports of wasted blood donations had also decreased, as reported by the Wired.
(With inputs from agencies)