Healthcare drones: Countless advantages for a healthier society
The healthcare cold chain takes to the skies thanks to drones
Healthcare drones making light work of refrigeration technologies
Unmanned airborne vehicles may not yet be a common sight for everyone, but in some parts of the world drones are already having an increasingly major impact on the healthcare sector.
With the objective of making it possible for those who require urgent healthcare supplies delivered as often and as regularly as necessary, various companies are now pushing the possibilities of exploiting drones to deliver healthcare supplies whilst equally maintaining the integrity of the products.
Countless advantages for a healthier society
The positive impact that drones can have, in particular in developing countries, is remarkable and today there are increasing examples of this.
Due to the economic and social challenges and instabilities faced by a number of countries worldwide, which may result in the lack of practicable transport routes or a reliable supply chain infrastructure, many health centres across the world may receive supplies as little as only twice a year.
Today, drones can offer a faster and more cost effective method to transport a variety of health products. They can make the difference between a life and death situation, particularly regarding heat-sensitive products such as vaccines, insulin and labile blood products that require additional care as a change in their storage temperature can render them unusable, inefficient, or even dangerous. Overcoming the issues raised with regards to the temperature control of health products throughout the entire distribution chain is essential, with health and economic factors being the priority.
In developing countries
In October 2016, the world’s first national drone service was launched by a start-up company delivering blood supplies to transfusion centres in Rwanda, where barriers to land transportation can prevent blood supplies from reaching critically ill patients in time.
According to the World Health Organisation “Manual on the Management, Maintenance and Use of Blood Cold Chain Equipment”, blood should be maintained at between +2°C and +6°C from sampling to transfusion.
Imagine the impact drone technology would have in a hot climate country like Malawi, one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa according to the UNESCO Country Programming Document for Malawi, 2013-2016, where it can take up to 11 days for a blood sample to reach a health clinic and more than 4 weeks to inform the patient of the results.
With some drones able to carry up to 1.5kg of blood and fly up to 150km round trip in 30 minutes the benefits would be extraordinary.
Interest in the technology is building up fast with the exploitation of healthcare drones progressively being put to the test in countries all over the world such as Madagascar, various states in the US, as well as the already mentioned Malawi and national drone service in Rwanda.