How are medical drones being used?
The benefits of using drones to save lives, quash outbreaks of diseases, or help during humanitarian crises, provide huge opportunities for companies and emergency services to reduce costs and be more efficient. Read on to find out why.
The history of medical drone deliveries
Medical drone deliveries began to take off in 2017 with the Government of Malawi and UNICEF launching an air corridor for drones in order to fight Cholera and make drones part of the medical infrastructure.
Using the drones, UNICEF scouted villages to gain a better view of how infection sources could best be fought, and which water sources were causing the infection. For example, they were able to see where water was being trapped and the location of rubbish that might be contributing to dirtying the water.
What’s more, on remote islands like Vanuatu, a string of 83 volcanic islands spread over 1600 kilometres (995 miles), it is extremely difficult to transport goods, which have to be brought in by boat and then picked up by hand as many of the roads are not good enough quality for cars. Due to these limitations, vaccine and health supply logistics are expensive, risky, and unreliable. Medical drone deliveries therefore have huge potential to help the population.
How has COVID-19 impacted medical drone deliveries?
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to continue supplying medicines with as little human contact as possible has soared. The use of medical drones presents an effective solution to the problems thrown up by the lockdowns around the world.
As a result, numerous countries across the globe have started their own medical drone delivery projects, for example:
- Manna Aero’s service began in March 2020as a pilot in Moneygall, having received authorisation from the Irish Aviation Authority.
- Windracers Ultra fixed-wing drone, capable of carrying 100kg for up to 1,000km, are carrying equipment and supplies from mainland England to St Mary’s Hospital near Newport on the Isle of Wight.
- Soarizon and Skyports drones are being trialed in the Scottish Highlands to provide the Isle of Mull with COVID19 test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE).
For citizens that live in rural communities, the benefits of delivering medications by drone cannot be underestimated. The drastic cut in delivery speed both improves waiting times and leads to quicker diagnosis or treatment for patients. In addition, drones also provide huge benefits to medical staff, who are able to access supplies and samples much faster than they could previously.
You can see a full list of countries with COVID-19 medical drone deliveries in place here.
What are the challenges?
While medical drone deliveries have come a long way, there remain challenges that are currently delaying adoption on a wider scale. In particular, medicines, blood and organs must be kept at a certain temperature during transport and anyone working with the packages must be properly trained to ensure the journey and landing of the products are smooth and safe.
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