Face shields, bio-suits, and disinfection chambers — some of the ways that Coronavirus is driving innovation in India

Face shields, bio-suits, and disinfection chambers — some of the ways that Coronavirus is driving innovation in India
Drones are being used to monitor Coronavirus hotspots in BengaluruBCCL


  • The onset of the Coronavirus pandemic in India is forcing innovation to focus on the healthcare system.
  • From drones to robots, solutions are being re-purposed to address the building health crisis.
  • The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and start ups are gearing up to find new solutions.
Coronavirus is a health crisis that’s put India’s population of over 1.3 billion people into their homes under lockdown for 21 days since March 25 — a lockdown that the government is now reportedly thinking about extending.

The silver lining is that it has shifted the focus of innovation on to the healthcare sector. From big wigs like the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to startups like drone delivering Marut — everyone wants to help.

Innovations to ramp up production of personal protective equipment (PPEs) like face shields and bio suits can go a long way to fill in the huge public-health deficiencies that India faces. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there’s only one doctor for every 1,800 people in the country — well below the recommended bare minimum doctor to population ratio of least one doctor per 1,000 people.

Here are some of the ways the Coronavirus pandemic is driving innovation in India:

Face shields

Source: DRDO

With face masks in short supply and health workers on the front line being left to develop make-shift solutions to protect themselves as they treat patients, the DRDO has come up with face shields.

Produced using 3D printing, they don’t feel suffocating like face masks and cover more than just your nose and mouth.

Disinfection chambers

Source: DRDO

The Personnel Sanitisation Enclosure (PSE) has been designed by the DRDO as a full-body disinfection chamber. Its main selling point is its portability. It has a separate cabin to monitor people as they go through.

The system has been manufactured with the help of DH Limited, a Ghaziabad-based company, which can produce one of these chambers every four days.

According to DRDO, the chambers can be used to monitor incoming and outgoing personnel as hospitals, official buildings and other critical points of transit.

Bio suits

Source: DRDO

DRDO developed a new biosuit which has seam sealing glue to keep paramedics and other health workers on the front line safe from Coronavirus. This is the same sealant that’s used to keep submarines waterproof.

Kusumgarh Industries partnered with the DRDO to mass-produce these suits. Their current production capacity is at around 7,000 suits per day with plans to ramp it up to 15,000.

Drones for deliveries, monitoring and sanitisation

Source: BCCL

The use of drones has taken precedence in lieu of social distancing being the need of the hour. A Hyderabad-based startup called Marut demonstrated how drones can be used to deliver medicines, collect blood samples and more amid the Coronavirus pandemic in the state of Telangana. Even though drone delivery isn’t allowed according to current laws, the startup is hoping that the government may consider relaxing the rules considering the national emergency in place right now.

Authorities are also using drones to monitor crowds and ensure that people maintain quarantine in areas where Coronavirus infections have been reported — like Nizammudin and Karimnagar. In addition, they’re also being used to sanitize areas

Three alumni from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) have also come up with a way to use infrared cameras on drones for thermal screening to identify Coronavirus suspects.
Robots to treat patients

Source: Propellor Technologies

A company in Tamil Nadu called Propellor Technologies donated its Zafi robots to help medical staff attend to patients in quarantine without contact. Within weeks of Coronavirus coming to India, the engineers were able to repurpose their original design into the Zafi Med robot for the specific requirements of the pandemic.

The Zafi med is capable of being operated from further away and carries a heavier load than the original Zafi robot.

Herbal hand sanitizers

Source: IIT-Roorkee

At the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) - Roorkee students prepared more than 150 litres of herbal hand sanitizer to address the shortage after people have been panic buying and hoarding it. It is based on the recommendations dictated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

The sanitizer is now being distributed free of cost across the campus.

Cheaper testing kits


Even though the government was initially offering Covid-19 testing for free, the sudden surge in cases after the Nizamuddin hotspot has the centre rethinking its stance. One test can cost as much as ₹4,500. However, the Supreme Court has ordered the government to continue offering the tests for free.

Students at the IIT-Delhi have developed a new kit that could considerably lower those prices, making it cheaper for the government to procure them.

The testing kit is currently undergoing trials at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune. They have not disclosed the cost difference as of now but if successful it can help the country the mounting financial stress of surge in healthcare spending.