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Piramal Foundation develops automated drone tech for TB diagnosis in Kalahandi

Piramal Foundation

Piramal Foundation pilots automated drone for Tuberculosis diagnosis

New Delhi, India (Corporate Social Responsibility): 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, in line with the Government of India’s ambitious goal of ending Tuberculosis (TB) by the year 2025. 
 
The experiment, which was launched in March 2022 in conjunction with Redwing Labs, observed a considerable reduction in the amount of time it took to get to the diagnostic centre. To guarantee smooth operations, Anamaya worked closely with the District Collector, Chief District Medical Officer, Civil Surgeon, frontline workers, and the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP) staff. 
 
Early identification of tuberculosis is crucial for its prevention and treatment. Given that one-third of Kalahandi is covered in deep forests and rough mountainous terrains, this created a significant difficulty. The drone experiment was implemented in three Kalahandi district blocks – Kesinga, Narla, and Bhawanipatna – to see whether there were any ways to speed up transit to allow for early diagnosis. The Anamaya team was in charge of project management from start to finish, as well as coordinating with the local government to secure the necessary permits and support. They also collaborated closely with frontline workers to ensure that samples were collected on time at the source.

Piramal Foundation

A distance of 36 kilometres of isolated, mountainous, uneven, and forest-covered terrain that would normally take 55 minutes by road was crossed in half the time, about 20 minutes, thanks to the use of drones. The Redwing team customized the drones to meet the pilot’s specific needs and ensured the drones’ operational effectiveness. The drone employed was capable of transporting up to 2-3 kg of weight. In total, 34 samples were gathered from two villages in one trip. 
 
“India has the largest number of TB infections and deaths every year,” said Aditya Natraj, CEO of the Piramal Foundation. Despite being one of the oldest diseases, we have made no progress against tuberculosis. Diagnosis is necessary for expedited therapy, and collecting a sputum sample is an important step. It’s critical that the sputum is transported safely and quickly to the testing centre.” 
 
Our goal with the drone pilot was to shorten the time it took to carry the sputum sample to the diagnostic centre in a proper, non-contaminated state,” he explained. 

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