Bhubaneshwar, April 20, 2021: In line with Government of India’s ambitious goal to end Tuberculosis (TB) by the year 2025, Anamaya, the Tribal Health Collaborative an initiative of Piramal Foundation, piloted automated drones for faster transportation of sputum samples for screening and diagnosis in hard-to-reach areas of Kalahandi district, Odisha. The pilot implemented in March 2022 in collaboration with Redwing Labs, saw a significant time reduction to cover the distance to the diagnostic centre. Anamaya worked closely with the District Collector, Chief District Medical Officer, Civil Surgeon, frontline workers and the staff of the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP) to ensure seamless operations.
Early detection of TB is a critical step in addressing its prevention and treatment. This posed a big challenge in Kalahandi given that one-third of the district is covered with dense forests and uneven hilly terrains. The drone pilot was implemented in three blocks – Kesinga, Narla, and Bhawanipatna of Kalahandi district, to explore ways of accelerating pace of transportation to enable early diagnosis. The Anamaya team looked after the end-to-end project management, coordinated with the local Government to arrange necessary permits and support. They also worked closely with the frontline workers to ensure timely sample collection at the source location.
With the deployment of drones, a distance of 36 kilometres of remote, hilly, uneven and forest-covered terrain which usually takes ~55 minutes by road, was covered in half the time, around 20 minutes. Redwing team customised the drones to suit the specific needs of this pilot and ensured operational efficiency of the drones. The drone used had a capacity to transfer 2-3 kilograms weight. 34 samples, in total, were collected from two villages during one flight each.
Aditya Natraj, CEO, Piramal Foundation said, “India records the highest number of TB cases every year and concomitant deaths. Despite being one of the oldest diseases, we have not advanced in our fight against TB. Diagnosis is very critical to fast-track treatment and collection of sputum sample is a crucial step. It is important that the sputum is transported safely to the diagnostic centre with improved speed.”
Through the drone pilot our aim was to reduce the time to transport the sputum sample in a proper non-contaminated shape to the diagnostic centre” he added.
About Anamaya, the Tribal Health Collaborative
A multi-stakeholder collaborative platform with Piramal Foundation, Gates Foundation, and USAID as core partners, Anamaya is committed to end preventable deaths among tribal and marginalised communities in India by co-creating solutions that strengthen communities and public delivery systems alike. Anamaya works closely with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Central TB division, and other government stakeholders. It engages with national and international organisations, philanthropies, knowledge partners, NGOs, community organisations, and community leaders.
About Redwing Labs
Redwing designs, integrates, and operates automated drone logistics systems to transform last-mile healthcare supply chains. Its work lies at the intersection of social impact, healthcare, and aviation. Redwing exists to ensure that everyone can access lifesaving medical supplies quickly and affordably.
About Piramal Foundation
Piramal Foundation is a section 8 company, with a vision to transform Health, Education, Water and social sector ecosystems through partnerships, high impact solutions and thought leadership.
Aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, it partners with Central Government and State Governments, international and national organisations and academia to help improve delivery of government services in line with its values of “Doing well and Doing good”.
By focusing on the most marginalized groups within India, strengthening State’s ability to deploy impactful initiatives, and engaging youth in nation building efforts, it has touched the lives of 100+ million Indians in the last 15 years.