National Swiss postal company Swiss Post will partner with drone maker Matternet to create a UAV transport system to save lives.
The project will transport lab samples via BVLOS flights between Tiefenau hospital and University Hospital Insel in Berne with more pilot projects expected later in Zurich.
When it comes to lab samples, transport speed between medical facilities can make the difference between life and death. Samples delivered by drones cannot be stopped by heavy street traffic and can drastically cut down courier transport time.
“When lab samples need to be transported as quickly as possible from A to B, every minute counts. This is why this pilot project is so visionary,” Insel Gruppe CEO Uwe E. Jocham said.
“Within two weeks, we want to evaluate whether the use of the drone offers real added value to them and, ultimately, to patients,” added Claudia Pletscher, Head of Development and Innovation at Swiss Post.
During the test period, drones will be launched for at least 10 successful flights over two weeks. Insel Gruppe will decide at that point if the test warrants further deployment. If so, Swiss Post will create a similar program, between ZLZ Enthraller, a lab in Zurich, and the ZLZ emergency laboratory at the Hirslanden Klinik Im Park.
Last year, Swiss Post and Matternet created the first hospital-to-hospital drone project in Lugano with more than 1,000 successful flights to date.
In 2015, Matternet partnered with the World Health Organization in Bhutan to provide drones that will be able to deliver medicine and medical equipment to residents in the more remote rural areas. Since Bhutan only has approximately one physician for every 3,333 people, such a service could help save thousands of lives.
Led by its main aviation agency, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), Switzerland has welcomed new innovations in life-saving drone tech. In 2016, the Swiss Society for Rescue Dogs (ReDog) announced a partnership with the Swiss Association of Civilian Drones (SVZD) to deploy thermal-imaging drones that will supplement the group’s search-and-rescue missions over unforgiving, mountainous terrain. In any given year, about 3,000 people go missing in Switzerland and UAVs can boost the reach of canine ground patrols.
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