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Defence firms divert firepower to fighting coronavirus

By Ajai Shukla
April 19, 2020 11:14 IST
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DRDO is developing 15 to 20 products to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ajai Shukla reports.
 

Kindly mote that the image has only been posted for representational purposes. Photograph: PTI Photo

Even as 26 naval sailors have been identified as coronavirus patients, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), eight Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), and 41 factories of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) have begun contributing to the fight against the global pandemic.

During wartime, these defence ministry organisations provide 'surge capacity' for stepped up requirements of arms, ammunition and defence equipment. Currently, they have focused on managing the COVID-19 crisis.

Bengaluru-based Bharat Electronic Limited has begun manufacturing 30,000 ventilators for intensive care units across the country. The order, placed by the ministry of health and family welfare, is required to be supplied within two months.

The ventilators have been designed by DRDO and improved upon by a Mysuru-based firm, Skanray, with whom BEL is collaborating.

According to BEL, it will manufacture 5,000 ventilators in April, 10,000 in May, and 15,000 in June.

Along with DRDO, BEL is trying to indigenise as many ventilator components as possible.

 

Meanwhile, Hyderabad-based Bharat Dynamics Limited is developing a ventilator prototype, in collaboration with a private start-up in Pune.

The defence ministry expects BDL to test and certify the prototype by the first week of May, after which large-scale manufacture will begin.

Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has manufactured more than 300 aerosol boxes, which serve as an insulator between patients and doctors to prevent transmission of the virus.

These have been distributed to government hospitals in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mumbai, Pune, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

HAL has also established an isolation ward facility for 93 persons in a building with 30 rooms.

Meanwhile, the OFB has begun manufacturing 110,000 protective coveralls for health care workers, which are required to conform to ISO Class 3 exposure standards -- a measure of the degree of virus contamination.

This initial order, placed by HLL Lifecare Limited -- the nodal agency appointed by the government for centralised COVID-19 related procurement -- is required to be completed in 40 days.

A cluster of five ordnance factories in Kanpur, Shahjahanpur, Firozabad and Chennai are currently manufacturing 800 coveralls per day, but the OFB is ramping up production to 1,500 daily.

OFB has also begun producing medical sanitiser fluid to meet an order from HLL.

'So far, OFB has manufactured 60,230 litres of sanitiser which has been distributed to HLL units besides its own hospitals in ordnance factories,' says the OFB.

The OFB has also begun manufacturing three-ply medical masks. It has already distributed 111,405 masks to various government agencies. The OFB has also manufactured 5,870 personal protective equipment kits (PPEs).

Ordnance factories have also begun the supply of special two-metre tents made of waterproof fabric, mild steel, and aluminium alloy for use in medical screening, hospital triage. and as quarantine shelters.

Some 420 tents of different types have already been distributed to various first responders, including the Odisha State Medical Corporation, the Arunachal Pradesh government, and Punjab police, Chandigarh.

Meanwhile, DRDO chief Satheesh Reddy says his organisation is developing 15 to 20 products to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two Delhi-based DRDO laboratories have announced the development of a high-tech ultraviolet sanitisation box and hand device.

This uses ultraviolet light, with a shorter, more energetic wavelength of 254 nanometres, to warp genetic material in the COVID-19 virus and prevent it from making copies of itself.

Killing microbes with ultraviolet light is an environment friendly and contact-free sanitisation method that avoids the harmful effects of disinfecting with chemicals.

Another Delhi-based DRDO laboratory that deals with explosive fire suppression has used its expertise in mist technology to develop and automatic mist-based sanitiser unit.

The sanitiser unit is activated through an ultrasonic sensor and sprays alcohol-based hand rub solution without contact and with minimum wastage.

'The unit can be used for sanitisation of hands at entry and exit to hospitals, malls, office buildings, residential buildings, airports, metro stations, railway stations, bus stations, and critical installations,' says DRDO.

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Ajai Shukla in New Delhi
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