Blood delivery by drones across India may soon be reality, says official after ICMR’s successful trial run

11:28 AM May 11, 2023 | PTI |

Blood delivery through drones can soon be expanded to the whole country, a senior official said after the Indian Council of Medical Research successfully conducted a trial run of blood bag delivery by drones under its iDrone initiative on Thursday.


The initiative was in continuance with 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. ”Today, we are transporting blood and blood-related products which are supposed to be kept at a low temperature. After the experiment, we found that not only can we maintain the temperature but 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.

He also said that ”clarity on challenge mapping and identifying the possible solutions can be achieved by developing indigenous capacities in research and introduction of innovations and technologies in the mainstream”. ”With digitisation, efficient manufacturing of vaccines and development of a rapid delivery mechanism, India achieved 90 per cent coverage within a year. The boost of technology is an accelerator which is gradually pushing India towards achieving the status of being a developed nation,” he added.

The trial run as part of a path-breaking validation study has been undertaken for the first time in the country by the collaborative efforts of ICMR, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, Government Institute of Medical Sciences, Greater Noida, and Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida. The inaugural trial flight carried 10 units of whole blood samples between the Government Institute of Medical Sciences, Greater Noida, and Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, in visual line of sight, according to an official statement.


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.

In Ghana, drone delivery of blood — both as laboratory samples and as emergency blood and blood product delivery — is now available for thousands of health facilities serving millions of people.

In the US, where whole blood and blood products are often sparse in rural areas, drones are more highly regulated and air traffic is more congested, the feasibility of drone delivery of blood and blood products is still being assessed.


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