Technology trickle-down: Tejas fighter's oxygen plant pressed into Covid-19 duty - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Stuff.

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Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Technology trickle-down: Tejas fighter's oxygen plant pressed into Covid-19 duty

The defence minister also proposes mobilising retired military officers into Covid-19 duty

 

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 21st Apr 21

 

In an innovative example of sophisticated defence technology being directly adapted to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, the On-Board Oxygen Generation System” (OBOGS) developed for the Tejas light combat aircraft, has been translated into a civilian-use oxygen generation plant that can produce 1000 litres of oxygen every minute.

 

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was briefed on Tuesday on this innovation by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The technology has been transferred to the private industry and the Uttar Pradesh government has already placed an order for five such plants, according to a Ministry of Defence (MoD) statement on Tuesday.

 

DRDO chairman, Dr Satheesh Reddy informed the defence ministry that more plants can be supplied by the industry to cater to the burgeoning hospital requirements. 

 

The defence minister, in an unusual emergency move, suggested that the military “utilise the services of vaccinated retired armed forces personnel to assist the civil administration /state governments to deal with the current situation”, stated the MoD.

 

Reddy offered that a supplemental oxygen delivery system that the DRDO had developed for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas, could be used for Covid-19 patients, as their medical conditions were similar in both cases. The DRDO expects the product, which is based on SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation), to be available in the market soon.

 

Developed by a DRDO laboratory called Defence Bio-Engineering and Electro Medical Laboratory (DEBEL), Bengaluru, the system delivers supplemental oxygen based on the SpO2 levels and prevents the person from sinking in to a state of Hypoxia, which is fatal in most cases.

 

Hypoxia is a state in which the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues is inadequate to fulfill all the energy requirements of the body. This situation gets replicated in Covid-19 patients due to the virus infection.

 

Reddy also informed Rajnath that the DRDO has restarted a Covid-19 facility in New Delhi and efforts are being made to soon increase the number of beds from 250 to 500.

 

Reddy also said that the Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) Hospital in Patna, had been converted to a Covid-19 hospital and it had started functioning with 500 beds. 

 

The DRDO chief said that his organisation was working “on a war footing” to operationalise a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, 750-bed hospital in Varanasi and 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad. 

 

Rajnath was holding a virtual meeting on Tuesday to review the readiness of the MoD and the military to deal with the sharp spike in Covid-19 cases across the country. He urged MoD establishments, including defence public sector undertakings, the ordnance factory board and the DRDO to “work on war footing to provide oxygen cylinders and extra beds to civil administration/state governments at the earliest”, according to an MoD statement.

 

He called upon the three services to be in close contact with state governments and to be ready to provide assistance. Rajnath has also delegated to the military emergency powers of procurement so that critical needs are procured.

    

The DRDO is on a major drive to hand over workable technologies – including for tackling Covid-19, but also regular weaponry and equipment  – to private industry for production. On Aug 24, 2021, the MoD announced that the DRDO had identified 108 defence systems and subsystems for industry to design, develop and manufacture towards achieving “Atmanirbhar Bharat”

 

DRDO technologies can be transferred to an industry base that consists of 1800 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), along with big industry in both private and public sectors. It has taken to involving Indian industry as “development-cum-production partners (DcPP), offering its technology to industry at nominal cost and providing free access to its patents”, an MoD release had stated last year on Aug 24.




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