Scientists are trialing drones to transport blood samples quickly and cheaply, through the air, to enable faster diagnoses and testing of patients in the field.
Teams from the Core Laboratory at Johns Hopkins Hospital are testing the devices in open air fields near Baltimore. Blood samples were loaded on the drone and flown around for varying time periods between 6-38 minutes
Changes in air pressure during flight, the shaking of the drone in the wind and during the take-off and landing were all concerns, but it worked. The blood samples were completely unaffected by turbulence or changes in air pressure.
The regulations for drones differ in every country, and in many cases are still being worked out. The samples here are packed in a special foam with a sponge that would fully absorb the specimens in the case of a crash.
In some settings, including sub-Saharan Africa, access to labs and transport of samples for medical testing face challenges due to poor roads and lack of accessibility. Taking to the air with a drone aims to remove these hurdles.
Drones could also become a viable option for bypassing standstill traffic or other land obstacles.
The team believe one of the key challenges in using drones is changing perceptions about the device and understanding that unmanned aircrafts, like drones, can be used for good. Pictured, a prototype of a package delivery drone.
As drones have become more popular and widely available a variety of uses have sprung up. Pictured, a prototype ambulance drone, developed by scientists at Delft technical university, carrying an in-built defibrillator.
These small medical drones can fly at the speed of 100 km and aim to quickly deliver a defibrillator to patients suffering from a heart attack.
In 2015, the first use of drones to collect medical supplies and transport them over rugged terrain in the state of Virginia was approved by the U.S. government. Pictured, a Flirtey non-military drone delivering medical supplies in Wise County, Virginia.