As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in many parts of the world, including Thailand due to the emergence of new and more transmissible variants, intense pressure has been put on public health. Hospitals are running out of beds to treat patients, whereas healthcare professionals experience fatigue from working long hours.

To lessen the burden of healthcare staff, MTEC-NSTDA has developed a remote-controlled cart Aree for delivering food and medicines to COVID-19 patients. The cart not only helps scale down labor, but it also reduces exposure risk of healthcare workers and saves PPE cost.

Dr.Korkiat Sedchaicharn, MTEC Researcher of Design and Industry Solutions Research Team, explained that the design of Aree aims at using commercially available parts and equipment. The cart has a dimension of 50 cm (W) x 40 cm (L) x 80 cm (H) and weighs 17 kg. It has two shelves and is equipped with a control system and a rechargeable battery. The cart has a maximum speed of 2 km/hr, a carrying weight limit of 5 kg and a travel range of 3 km/charge. In term of quality and safety, Aree meets the requirements of IEC 60601-1-2 standard for electromagnetic compatibility of medical devices as tested by Electrical and Electronic Products Testing Center (PTEC).

Aree was put to the test at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration General Hospital and Prasat Neurological Institute. Hospital staff was able to navigate the cart using a remote control with ease. The saving on PPE cost was estimated to be 5,000 THB/day.

With generous donations made by private companies and individuals, 40 units of Aree have been manufactured and delivered to hospitals across Thailand. More carts will be produced to meet the 90-unit target.