In an unassuming office in Kupondol, electrical engineer Suraj Karki turns on the DC power supply, and the room goes quiet as his team waits for the octocopter on a table to show signs of life.
Sure enough, its coloured lights blink, and the rotors start spinning with a whine. Relief and excitement floods the office. Later, after a successful outdoor test flight, Karki’s team names the medicopter Puspak, after the legendary flying machine from the Ramayana.
“We want people to regard our drones as messengers from God, delivering life-saving support,” says Karki, who hopes to have medicopters fully operational in two years.
The flight test of the locally-made prototype to deliver medicines to remote health centres in Nepal is one of the first projects of Mahabir Pun’s National Innovation Center (NIC) which the Magsaysay Prize winner set up to allow Nepali engineers to apply their knowledge in their own country.
“I want to stop the brain drain of talented people by supporting them in the development of innovative technologies that bring economic growth to Nepal, not to build strong economies elsewhere,” says Pun, who himself returned from the United States to launch rural Internet networks, telemedicine and agricultural services to over 200 remote villages in Nepal.