Although testing positive for COVID-19 isn’t exactly a death sentence, one of the biggest hindrances in keeping patients alive is the lack of equipment, specifically ventilators. Countries and manufacturers have been scrambling to keep up with the sudden spike in demand for these life-saving machines. Fortunately, manufacturers from other industries have also jumped in to help compensate for the limited supply, just like this NASA-developed ventilator that just got the green light for emergency use in the US.
The US government put out a call for companies and organizations to build the much-needed ventilators that help keep sever COVID-19 patients alive and breathing. Most of the attention has been taken by car and appliance makers like GE, Ford, and even Tesla. NASA’s solution, however, has some unique traits that could make it attractive as well.
Developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL), the Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally or VITAL for short is presented to be easier to manufacture, requiring fewer parts, many of which can be easily sourced from existing supply chains. Its flexibility also means that it can easily be taken to the makeshift field hospitals being set up in the US and even around the world.
More importantly, NASA itself isn’t making the ventilator but is licensing VITAL’s design free of charge. The FDA’s approval removes the final legal hindrance for interested manufacturers to use that design to actually mass produce these machines.
NASA’s VITAL joins the slowly growing number of ventilators that are being made to respond to the unexpected surge in demand. NASA doesn’t expect these to replace hospital ventilators, though, as VITAL is expected to last only up to four months at most. Even that short time, however, can be vital (pun intended) to saving lives during this critical period in human history.