On September 19, 2019 when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was making his first flight on LCA ‘Tejas’, scientists of Defence Electro medical & Bio-Engineering Laboratory (DEBEL), a DRDO laboratory, had briefed that the on-board oxygen (OBOX) generating system under development would be ready for LCA by early 2020. The oxygen in most fighters is carried in compressed or liquid form in cylinders installed onboard, and is used by the pilot during long continuous operations and at high altitude. After every flight, these cylinders are refilled by ground technicians during turn-around servicing. The quantum of oxygen on board puts limitations on total endurance of the aircraft. In times of aerial refueling, extending both aircraft range and endurance, this could be an unwanted constraint. World over newer aircraft graduated to installation of the OBOX systems. Rafale already has OBOX system. The system uses the bleed air let out by the engine and processes it to separate Nitrogen and other gases using molecular sieves and other techniques to give out pure oxygen. After years of development and testing, the system is all set for flight testing onboard the LCA. Once successful, it will go onboard other aircraft like the Su-30 MKI.
The world is today going through the COVID-19 pandemic, an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. The virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. Respiratory system is normally severely affected. The patients are given human grade oxygen through respirators and other means. Hospitals are normally supplied oxygen cylinders by reputed authorised firms. It involves a logistic chain and we have had cases when late or inadequate supplies had caused casualties in hospitals. DRDO thus felt that the OBOX which had been extensively tested on the ground could supplement oxygen supplies in hospitals. The installation could provide continuous oxygen supply in hospitals, and reduce dependence on scarce oxygen cylinders which require a logistic supply chain, said DRDO officials. DRDO has already used this technology at some high-altitude hospitals in Leh-Ladakh and Tawang in the north-east. DEBEL lab has also developed masks and sanitizers and are engaged in bulk production of the same through their product developers and suppliers.
Inputs for the article have been taken from Anantha Krisnan Muralidharan Nair, an independent aerospace and defence journalist. Image Credit: Air Power Asia Copyright Free Images