Ever since the Chinese coronavirus outbreak came to notice, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has ensured that all its laboratories working under life sciences cluster is geared up to help corona warriors and civilian authorities in combating COVID-19. The DRDO took a call in the first week of March 2020 to enhance efforts to create counter-measures to stop the spread of the viral disease in India. It started focusing on creating mass supply solutions for critical medical requirements using years of experience and available technology to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. As of result, the DRDO has quickly developed some frontline low-cost, high volume equipment desperately needed in the ‘War against Corona’.
These labs are working overtime to produce spin-off technologies and innovations that are being quickly converted to products. The developed technologies transferred to various industries have enabled ramping up production as per requirement. Many industries which develop components and sub-components for these primary industries have also been enabled. About 100 such industries have been activated to produce the required equipment and products. Though the overall products of DRDO are being produced by 43 primary industries in the country, their numbers are increasing as products are qualifying in the testing process.
Over the past two months, the DRDO has been accelerating and enhancing products and countermeasures to combat the spread of the pandemic in the country. According to a report titled `Critical Equipment and Technologies Developed by DRDO for Combating COVID-19 Pandemic’ more than three dozen products have been listed that have been developed and designed. Some of these are spin-offs from existing critical technologies. The effort of the organization is to ensure uninterrupted creation of solutions by using available resources.
“The spin-off technologies and products are being produced in a very short period of time with great zeal, dedication and commitment by the scientists and technicians involved in the labs,” said Dr NK Arya, Director, Directorate of Public Interface (DPI) at DRDO. He further added that, “The efforts of young scientists are commendable who worked painstakingly at various hospitals to understand the requirements of frontline corona warriors to develop niche technologies at labs.”
These spin off products range from developing software products like quarantine tracking apps, video conferencing apps andCOVID-19 infections prediction App- METRICS to developing multi-patients ventilator kits, and Robotsfor keeping frontline corona warriors safe in hospitals.
Besides, developing contactless sanitizer ‘Defence Research Ultraviolet Sanitizer’ (DRUVS), that disinfects mobiles, iPads, laptops, currency notes, challans etc., to developing automated luggage disinfector using UV-Bath, UV Blaster to sanitize office spaces and buildings. Medical equipment like microwave sterilizer called ‘ATULYA’ that helps in disintegrating the virus by differential heating in the range of 56 to 60-celsius temperature.
The DRDO is also actively involved in activities like sample testing facilities at DRDE, Mobile Virology Research and diagnostics Laboratory (MVRDL)to speed up virus detection and neutralisation and providing isolation shelters.
Apps to Track COVID-19 Patients
The Bangaluru based Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR), one of DRDO’s AI arms, has created a technology-driven solution for tracking of COVID-19 suspects under isolation or quarantine. A team of 20 young scientists have developed a mobile-based application called SAMPARC (Smart Automated Management of Patients and Risks) in over three weeks.
The development of the software has been done by a DRDO Young Scientist Lab (DYSL)dedicated to artificial intelligence which was set up recently on directions by the Prime Minister in January this year.
The app has already been offered to various state governments to enable AI-driven measures to slow the outbreak. It has been hosted exclusively for state governments in India. With several states including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Delhi struggling to contain the spread of the virus, this initiative by CAIR will be effective as the country prepares to come out of an extended lockdown.
The SAMPARC system is focused on geo-fencing and AI-based automated face recognition, and would enable state officials to keep a track on patients using a map-like interface that displays relevant information. This interface would also be colour-coded to depict hotspots and containment zones in an area. Its widespread use could also mean that patients may be able to isolate themselves at home during the quarantine period, rather than rely on government facilities. This could greatly reduce the load on state machinery.
Besides, CVRDE, Chennai has developed a mobile-based application called Kavsam for COVID-19 tracking and resource allocation. The application enables data collection and entry by field workers at allocated streets which can be used for any resource allocation,likevaccination for COVID 19 at a later date.
DRDO has also developed a custom-designed IoT device“SurakshaKawach” for corona patient tracking and surveillance to fight with the pandemic. It is a GSM and GPS enabled rugged system for real-time tracking, central monitoring and management.The device can also be integrated with ArogyaSetu or any other mobile app.
Prediction of Pandemic Path
DRDO’s Delhi based ISSA has developed a data model METRICS (Mathematical Estimation for Tracking Infections of COVID-19Spread in India) for generating a daily estimation report based on data available. The model predicts based on current data which signifies the lockdown situation.The prediction being done is for short term based on current reproduction number. Long term prediction is being done by curve fitting method integrated with multiple factors like social distancing, reproduction rate and other parameters. Multiple parameters can be varied to predict various scenarios post lockdown.
A tool for trend reversal prediction and estimation of new COVID cases per day ‘Agradoot’ has been developed by INMAS, Delhi and Young Scientist’sLaboratory – AI and Cyber(Advisor) teams. The model is being tuned based on daily developments in the Indian environment.
Video Conferencing Tools
In situations where interaction via video conferencing (VC) is necessary, there is a growing tendency to use non-private, insecure and easily mis-configuredplatforms compromising security and privacy. Due to lockdown, an urgent need was felt for trusted infrastructure to facilitate interaction from home and office. It was essential that the DRDO community does not use server facilities not fully trusted for VC (such as Zoom/Skype etc.) In such platforms,presence of unauthorized users cannot be ruled out and server infrastructure is vulnerable to eavesdropping.
To provide a robust, secure and easy to use application for videoconferencing solution on internet, DRDO has developed two Video Conferencing solutions.
Robots for keeping Hospital Safe: A team of scientists at CAIR has customized one of its robotic solutions to come up with a cost effective robot within a week. The robot is named as ‘Sewak’. According to DRDO, these robots can be a safe alternative for the hospital staff like medical professionals and health workers in taking care of the COVID-19 patients in the quarantine centres and hospitals. It can be teleoperated by the hospital staff from a remote location and navigated in the quarantine zone and distribute food, water,medicine etc., to the affected persons. All this is possible while the hospital staff is positioned in a safe zone and the robot moves inside the quarantined zone. This eliminates the risks of exposure to the infection of frontline workers while taking care of theneeds of the patients.
‘Contactless Sanitizer’ to Disinfect Phones, Gadgets, Currency Notes
RCI, Hyderabad, a DRDO unit, has developed an Automated contactless UVC Sanitization Cabinet ‘DRUVS’ (Defence Research Ultraviolet Sanitizer)which has been designed to sanitize mobile phones, iPads, laptops, currency notes, cheque leaves, challans, passbooks, paper, envelopes. It has also developed an Automated UVC Currency Sanitizing Device, ‘NOTESCLEAN’.
The DRUVS Cabinet makes a contactless operation which is essential to contain the spread of the virus. Proximity sensor switches clubbed with drawer opening and closing mechanism makes its operation automatic and contactless. According to DRDO statement, it provides 360-degree exposure of UVC to objects placed inside the cabinet and once sanitization is done, the system goes in sleep mode.
UV Disinfection Tower to Sanitize Airports, Stations, Malls, Offices
A Delhi-based DRDO laboratory laser Science and Technology Centre (Lastec) with the help of New Age Instruments and Materials Private Limited, Gurugram has pitched in with an ultra-violet disinfection tower that can be used for sanitising places such as airports, shopping malls, metro stations, hotels, factories and offices. According to DRDO, the UV disinfection tower named UV Blaster is very useful in the fight against coronavirus disease as the tower can be used for rapid and chemical-free disinfection of high-risk areas where the flow of people is heavy.
Apart from all these niche products and activities, the DRDO is working on vaccine development and Therapeutic Drugs development is also going on.
By: Ravi Shankar