Nepal Flying Labs for Drone Optimized Therapy System (DrOTS) has been named a winner in the XCELLENCE Awards by the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI). Sponsored by DJI for the third consecutive year, the DrOTS project was selected from a pool of accomplished applicants as one of six winners for the Humanitarian and Public Safety Awards.
The DrOTS project aims to improve the accessibility of TB diagnostic tests by linking community health workers (CHWs) with state-of-the-art diagnostic tools (GeneXpert) via drones. Under this system, the drone collects sputum samples from remote healthcare facilities and delivers them directly to the central hospital or lab. Healthcare personnel at the hospital then test the sputum sample using the GeneXpert diagnostic tool. The purpose of this project is to assist the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) Nepal and the National Tuberculosis Center by generating the data necessary to assess the suitability of the approach for nationwide expansion. The project team consists of multisector experts in public health (Birat Nepal Medical Trust (BNMT)), drones & technology (WeRobotics, Nepal Flying Labs, and DroNepal), research (the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine), government (Ministry of Health and Population Nepal, the National TB Center, and the District Public Health Office (DPHO Pyuthan)), and is supported by Stony Brook University, Nick Simons Institute, Nepal.
“The Humanitarian and Public Safety Awards demonstrate the profound ability of the recipients to positively impact lives through unmanned systems technology and create tremendous goodwill for our industry,” said AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne. “We proudly recognize the six winners and hope their accomplishments will serve as an inspiration to utilize UAS to accomplish remarkable achievements for our society, which during a global pandemic is needed now more than ever.”
The AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards honors innovators with a demonstrated commitment to advancing autonomy, leading and promoting safe adoption of unmanned systems, and developing programs that use these technologies to save lives and improve the human condition.
In rural Nepal, the biggest challenge for healthcare delivery is the lack of adequate transport infrastructure. Healthcare workers or patients often walk for many hours to reach services, and essential supplies are often out of stock. DrOTS Nepal is designed for early-and-rapid TB diagnostics in Pyuthan by using drones and smart pillboxes, called MERMS (Medication Event Reminder-Monitors), to overcome the barrier to access in remote areas and improve treatment through better patient compliance. A network of locally-hired female community health volunteers uses drones to transport the sputum samples of people with TB symptoms to laboratories or GeneXpert testing hubs. If the samples are positive, patients are enrolled in DOTS treatment using smart pillboxes that remind them to take their drugs every day and keep electronic records of each dose taken, reviewed by a health care worker.