CRISIS INNOVATION | Indian air droppable field hospital
India has developed and constructed a field hospital in a “flatpack” design, capable of being airlifted to a disaster-stricken area by helicopter and assembled more swiftly than an average household furniture.
The compact device, consisting of small cubes containing medical tools like a mini X-ray and ultrasound, and powered by a solar-charged generator, allows surgeons to start operating within just one hour. The medical facility is housed within 72 compact waterproof cubes, each weighing less than 15kg and measuring 38cm x 38cm x 38cm. These cubes are equipped with tents and specially designed medical gear.
They can be transported to conflict zones or locations affected by natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes in remote areas. Moreover, these cubes are resilient
enough to endure airdrops from planes or helicopters. Five trained individuals can assemble the cubes into a fully operational hospital within one hour, enabling doctors to address injuries and conduct life-saving surgeries.
Each hospital unit is capable of treating up to 200 patients, performing 20 surgeries and carrying out 72 tests (25 simultaneously).¹ It can also house 100 people for up to 48 hours.² The innovation lies in its lightweight design, allowing it to deliver essential medical care in challenging and remote terrains where prompt attention is crucial.
From emergencies to surgeries, encompassing scenarios such as fire outbreaks, wars, floods, and earthquakes, this mini-hospital aims to provide immediate and superior care for all types of victims. The Aarogya Maitri Aid Cube hospital, officially unveiled in early December, features compact intensive-care units, an operating theater, and a variety of equipment such as portable X-ray and ultrasound machines, as well as ventilators.3
Its power source is a generator fueled by solar panels, and it includes provisions for water and a cooking station. This hospital is a component of a broader healthcare initiative aimed at aiding low-income countries impacted by natural disasters.
Where such innovation could find practical use?
The adaptability and configurable nature of these air-droppable cubes make them a valuable asset. For instance, if the primary requirement on-site is for life-saving surgery, the operating theater can be assembled first in as little as 12 minutes, enabling doctors to commence surgery while the remaining cubes are being set up.
While the contents of 60 cubes are fixed, the contents of the remaining 12 can be adjusted to accommodate various situations. It required a year of collaboration with doctors, army medics, engineers, and designers to develop the blueprint. Each cube is both waterproof and corrosion-proof, undergoing resilience tests through drops from helicopters and drones.
Additionally, the cube features a tablet computer programmed to reduce assembly errors, with an alarm system activating if incorrect equipment is placed in any given cube. Moreover, there is an accompanying app that aids users in swiftly locating items within the cubes, monitoring their usage and expiration dates, and ensuring readiness for future deployments.
As of December 12, India has provided a set of these cubes to Sri Lanka and Myanmar as part of its global humanitarian program.4 It might be worthwhile for the Estonian Rescue Board to explore acquiring or at least testing this Indian innovation to enhance its civil defence capabilities.
¹ Thakur, A. 2023. India unveils world’s first portable hospital, can treat 200 patients. The Tribune, 02.12.2023 (accessed 12.12.2023).
² [Anon.], 2023. India Unveils World’s First Rapid-Deploy Portable Hospital. India Times, 05.12.2023 (accessed 12.12.2023).
3 ANI News. (2023, December 2). India launches world’s first indigenous portable hospital ‘Aarogya Maitri Aid Cube’ [Video]. YouTube (accessed 12.12.2023).
4 Dhillon, A. India unveils flatpack field hospital that can be airdropped to disaster zones. The Guardian, 08.12.2023 (accessed 12.12.2023).