MAHE & ICMR hold drone trial run – Tissue sample transported mid-surgery for advanced pathological testing

08:35 AM Apr 11, 2024 | Press Release |

Manipal: Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) Collaborate to Launch Innovative Aerial Healthcare Delivery Program.


A groundbreaking collaboration between the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) has led to the inception of the Deployment of a RObust NEed based aerial healthcare delivery system (DRONE). This program aims to introduce the use of drones for transporting Onco-pathological Samples between Peripheral and Tertiary Care Hospitals in Karnataka.

The primary focus of this initiative is to evaluate the feasibility of transferring bio-specimen, such as frozen section samples, from remote locations to peripheral hospitals using aerial transportation. The ultimate goal is to enhance the healthcare infrastructure by enabling surgeons to conduct procedures that require such investigations in rural areas.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, have been increasingly embraced across various sectors, including healthcare. The i-DRONE project seeks to investigate the feasibility and utility of employing drones for this purpose. By harnessing drone technology, tissue samples can be transported swiftly, offering immediate access to advanced diagnostics like Frozen sections during surgical procedures. Successful implementation of this research could potentially transform healthcare delivery by establishing seamless connections between remote hospitals and laboratory facilities, thereby facilitating complex surgeries for patients in geographically isolated regions.

The inauguration ceremony witnessed the presence of esteemed dignitaries and scientists including Dr. Rajiv Bahl, Secretary, Dept. of Health Research, Govt. of India and Director General, ICMR, who served as the chief guest. Also present were Dr. Sanghmitra Pati, Additional Director General (ADG), ICMR and Director, ICMR-RMRC, Bhubaneshwar, Ms. Anu Nagar, Joint Secretary, Dept. of Health Research, Govt. of India, Dr. Sumit Aggarwal, Senior Scientist and Program Officer, ICMR, Dr. Kuldeep Nigam, Scientist, ICMR, Dr. H. S. Ballal, Pro-Chancellor, MAHE, Manipal, Lt. Gen (Dr) M D Venkatesh, Vice Chancellor, Dr. Sharath K Rao, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Health Sciences) MAHE, Manipal, and Dr. Kirthinath Ballala, CMO, Dr. TMA PAI hospital.


During the event, Ms. Anu Nagar emphasized the transformative potential of the i-DRONE project, highlighting its role in bridging healthcare disparities and ensuring equal access to medical services across Karnataka. Dr. Sanghmitra Pati stressed the importance of collaborative research efforts in addressing healthcare challenges, expressing optimism about the project’s potential to enhance diagnostic capabilities and improve patient outcomes.

Dr. Rajiv Bahl, during inaugurating the project, commended that in this ongoing study, our focus is on the transportation of tissue specimens using drone technology and this initiative will contribute in drafting standard operating procedures for the future and provide the next level of care to patients. Lt Gen (Dr) Venkatesh congratulated the ICMR for leading this pioneering initiative, emphasizing the significance of leveraging technology to tackle healthcare disparities and enhance healthcare access for all communities. Dr. H S Ballal, in his presidential address, praised the collaborative spirit driving the project forward and highlighted the importance of innovation in healthcare.

Dr. Sumit Aggarwal extended his heartfelt gratitude to all attendees and contributors for their unwavering support and dedication to the i-DRONE project.


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