Drones Set to Fly in as Lifesavers in Rural India

They are young and raring to venture into unconventional territories – making drones life savers. Move over food-delivery, Anshul Sharma, Arunabha Bhattacharya and Rishab Gupta – all in the age group of 23 and 25 – have launched a startup, Air Aid Pvt Ltd, that will use drones to transport blood, vaccines and emergency medicines to people and hospitals living in rural areas from mid-2019. “We have already made 19 successful deliveries in rural areas of Karnataka, West Bengal and Nepal,” Anshul Sharma, cofounder and CEO of Air Aid Pvt Ltd, told TOI. “The company will start Bloodstream, the name of the project, which will also transport blood to women with post-delivery complications,” Gupta, chief financial officer, said. Weighing 9 kg, the drones can carry 1.5 kg medicine and can make a 105 km round trip on a single battery charge, even in wind and rain, Bhattacharya, chief technical officer and co-founder, said.

“The Magnum (the company’s in-house drone) meets all safety standards laid down by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. “There are no chances of any interference with normal air traffic, as we will be flying much lower, and in areas where there is no air traffic,” he added. The DGCA has released drone regulations last week. Millions of units of blood are discarded every year because of limited shelf life after donation and the lack of cold-chain infrastructure required for transport and storage in rural areas, Sharma claimed. Lack of timely availability of blood, plasma or platelets often causes maternal mortality, he added.

India has an annual shortfall of three million units of blood. “We will use drones, data science and cloud-based inventory management system to solve logistical problem. We will provide blood on demand to remote and inaccessible areas, with predictive inventory patterns to leapfrog all challenges. We are a team of three like in the Amir Khan-starrer Three Idiots,” Sharma claimed. Countries, which are experimenting with drones for supplying bloods, are the US, Switzerland, New Zealand, China, Japan, Rwanda, Iceland, Costa Rica, and the Scandinavian nations. – TOI

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