KDU invents robots, ventilators and mobile app to fight coronavirus

April 23, 2020


With the intention of easing out the current national crisis of COVID-19, the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) has taken several initiatives of Research and Development to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and to mitigate its impact. These initiatives are diverse and focus several areas of importance, spanning from improving people’s health, diagnosis of SARS-COV 2 infections and developing biomedical equipment to developing strategies to face post-impact of the pandemic. The university has already established the COVID-19 testing facility and is currently undertaking the testing of patient-samples, not only from its own hospital (UH-KDU) but from other relevant institutes under the Health Ministry .

Since the beginning of the pandemic, several members of the Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Computing and Faculty of Medicine, KDU working collaboratively in teams, brought various inventions such as producing timely needed medical equipment, disinfecting items and medical assistance computer applications etc. These research teams comprised the students of KDU, both the officer cadets and the day scholars, and also the academic staff members. Under the immense support and the encouragement by the Vice Chancellor Maj. Gen. Milinda Peiris and his support staff in the university, these initiatives have already become a huge success. Some of these items which have been completed in production were demonstrated to the Defence Secretary Maj. Gen. (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne on April 21, 2020. These are ventilators of two designs, a UV air purifier, a Robot Medical Assistant, and a software application for long distance patient-doctor communication. A brief description of each of these items with the research teams involved is given below.

KDU Ventilator-2020 Ver. 1.0

This is a pneumatically driven, time-cycled ventilator with user determined volume and flow rate selection capability. The system is a matched integration of a compressed air tank, air and oxygen inputs, a set of electrically operated valves and tubes, and a patient circuit of tubing. The compressed air tank is pneumatically compressed to supply an air/oxygen mixture. The lung's elasticity is utilized releasing the overpressure, also called passive exhalation, and expiration is released usually through a one-way valve within the patient circuit tubing. The oxygen percentage of the inspiration supply can be adjusted from 21% (ambient air) to 100% (only oxygen). The prototype design functions on CMV, SMV & Spontaneous modes. The user is facilitated with the touch-sensitive screen to input required and appropriate parameters within each mode of operation such as tidal volume, frequency, Oxygen percentage, inspiration to expiration ratio, system sensitivity. This is an endeavor of a group of research team lead by, Senior Lecturer KDU Eng. Udaya Damapge, with group of KDU researchers: Senior Lecturer Cmde. Janaka Gunasela, Senior Lecturer Capt Priyankara Dissanayake, Senior Lecturer (Consultant Anesthesiologist) Samanthi Pullaperuma, Lecturer Lt. Comm. Sanjaya Arunapriya, and Dinesh Bandara (Dinesh Ro Electronics). The product development cost was Rs 100,000.

KDU MEDICARE Robot-2020 Ver. 1.0

This is a development of a medical assistant robot to take care of COVID-19 patients, to feed them and to provide them medicine without direct human contact with them. The functions of the prototype includes: ability to deliver food containers & medicine to 8 patients at same bed level by a single cycle, capability to spray sanitizer as per requirement by robotic hand on top of the system, two way communication for doctor and the patient for real time medical inspections, ability to handle the robot remotely and obstacle detection along the way, inbuilt UV sterilization in all dispensers. This product is an outcome of the endeavors of a group of KDU researchers lead by, Senior Lecturer Eng. Udaya Damapge, with Senior Lecturer Cmde Janaka Gunaseela, and members of Electronic, Robotic & Innovation Club. The product development cost was Rs 250,000.00.

Ventilator Pro KDU Ver. 1.0

A patient ventilator which is less expensive and takes less time to build using locally sourced materials and components. This ventilator allows the control of all vital parameters during ventilation. It is built to minimize aerosol generation during ventilation. In addition, the machine is built with a self-sterilization mechanism to reduce machine idling time from one patient to the other. This is an effort of a group of KDU researchers, Senior Lecturer Dr. Prasanna Premadasa, Lecturer Sqn. Ldr. WNI Yalagama, Senior Lecturer University of Moratuwa Dr. R Wijesiriwardena, Cadet MGSJB Maddegoda, Cadet KDP Anjana, and student SLINTEC Naveen Ranasinghe. The Senior Lecturer (Consultant Anesthesiologist) Brig (Dr) Thamasi Makuloluwa’s input on the use and application of the equipment was also contributed to the success of this product development. The cost involved in the development was less than Rs 100,000.

Curec: Doctor Patient Communication Platform

‘Curec’ is a mobile app developed by the Faculty of Computing to link the doctors and patients during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It stands for Cure and Recovers. The computer application addresses the problem of over utilizing healthcare resources and minimizing the risk of unnecessary exposure of people to the virus. Unlike other prevailing apps, the key features of Curec are the real-time video calling facility and the location tracker. The user is given a self-assessment to identify his/her COVID-19 status based on a scoring system, from High to Low, after which the user can choose to call the doctor. On the other hand, the doctor will answer the call from a priority queue, diagnose the patient, and assign the patient with the medical advice, based on interim guidelines given by the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine for COVID-19 isolation centers. The App also provides a Symptoms Log for the patient to monitor his history and decisions given by previous doctors. The application is developed by a group of KDU researchers, Senior Lecturer Dr. LP Kalansooriya, Senior Lecturer Cmde JU Gunaseela, and a panel of medical experts from Lady Ridgeway Hospital Dr. YDMASK Yapa Bandara, Dr. VT Jayasinghe, Dr. Vasan Ratnasingam, Dr. Mangala Rajamanthri from the Base Hospital, Karawanella), Senior Lecturer KDU Dr. Namal Wijesinghe and the day scholars EMNK Ekanayake, HKK Perera, NS Premaratne, HMGKC Bandara, LMGS Bandara, IAMP Ileperuma and GVDIK Perera. The cost involved in the first phase was approximately Rs. 125,000.00

UV Air Purifier

This purifier is capable of destroying airborne pathogens, such as SARS COV-2 virus, using UV-C light. This device can be used to purify air in a theatre or a ward with patients with respiratory diseases. Since this can be used even when the people are in the room, this is very useful in a hospital setup. This product was developed by a group of KDU researchers, Senior Lecturer Dr. Prasanna Premadasa, Lecturer Sqn. Ldr. WNI Yalagama, AWC Abeygunawardena (SUO) and Cadet MGSJB Maddegoda with Nadun Madanayake  of Sri Jayawardenepura University. The cost would be approximately Rs 40,000.

Additionally, members of the Department of Strategic Studies of KDU, led by Prof. Amal Jayawardena and the Dean Faculty of Defence and Strategic Studies Col. Silvester Perera have performed as a Think-Tank to understand the gravity of the on-going COVID-19 epidemic and to strategize the plausible future.

The Strategic Foresight, a report describing the post-COVID-19 situation in Sri Lanka, has been prepared as a strategic forecast on the post-pandemic situation of the country. The report would allow us to anticipate changes and better prepare for the future. This report was handed over to the Defence Secretary Maj. Gen. Gunaratne by KDU Vice Chancellor Maj. Gen. Peiris during the session.