It can be used for carrying organs for transplant: Professor

Will an unmanned aerial system (UAS) soon be transporting a heart across the city, rushing it to a recipient waiting in another hospital? The solution to beating traffic and saving precious lives is finally within grabbing distance.

Deviating from the convention of deploying drones for defence or security-related purposes, a professor of Anna University here has offered to deploy ‘Dhaksha,’ an indigenously-developed UAS, for transporting vital organs for transplantation from one hospital to another.

K. Senthil Kumar, Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering, Madras Institute of Technology says that the flying device can also be used effectively for civilian relief/rescue operations. It can fly up to a height of 1200 ft, and can be programmed to cover long distances too, he adds.

“At the moment, we have only tried it out for up to seven km. But we are planning to fit it with hydrogen fuel cells which will greatly enhance its capacity to remain in the air. It can then do up to 6 hours, which means organs can be transported between neighbouring states too,” Dr. Senthil Kumar explains.

Dr. Kumar led the team of researchers in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Anna University, which designed and developed ‘Dhaksha.’

‘Dhaksha’ is capable of carrying a payload of 40 per cent of its weight, and flying at a maximum speed of 60 kmph. At the moment, it takes up to 2 kg, but can be built to accommodate a cosy carrier for organs, or medical supplies, he adds, in response to a question. The device follows the route mapped by Google Earth and descends at the exact spot its flight path has specified.

“We only need one person at the start and arrival points to load and offload the consignment,” Dr. Senthil Kumar adds. It does not even have to land as the consignment can be plucked off, even as the device hovers at a reachable level. It is guarded against interception, and since the control centre has the vision that a pilot would have if he were manning the craft, one can guard against bird hits and bumping into other obstacles.

“The UAS can be used for live aerial visuals at times of natural disasters or major road accidents to know the actual situation on the ground.” He is proposing to provide the services free for medical and emergency situations.

“This seems like an exciting possibility. There have been many instances in the past when we have failed to utilise organs because they could not be transported on time. If we had this kind of technology, we can send the organ to hospitals that need them, even if not within the city,” says J. Amalorpavanathan, Convener, Cadaver Transplant Program, Tamil Nadu. The actual feasibility of flying organs between hospitals can be tested with a dry-run in the city, he adds.

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