This post is also available in: English
For patients who are unable to gain easy access to health care facilities, or health care centers that are unable to send samples to labs for tests, the possibility of drone technology being applied to medical care poses itself as a very welcome development. Drones have the capacity to change the face of medical care significantly. With the recent review of drone legislation in the US, the stage is set for drone technology to become a mainstream tool of transport worldwide. The question now is, how will drone transport of medical related products and packages affect medical care?
The average drone can fly at a speed of 35-40mph, which is much faster than a bicycle and has the added advantage of being able to go as the crow flies. The drone is not encumbered by traffic or road signs, and can be estimated realistically per delivery time or ETA. Using drones in medical care for the delivery of medicines, vaccines, and samples for tests would ensure the packages are delivered fast and without any delays. Necessary drugs can get to ailing patients fast enough to save lives.
Unhindered Access, Anywhere
In many parts of the world, such as Africa, access to proper medical care is hampered by many conditions related to infrastructure. Timothy Amukele, a pathologist with John Hopkins University who has worked with health care centers and hospitals in Uganda and other parts of Africa, talks about how poor access to proper health care – including diagnosis and lab tests, is a major cause of suffering and death of patients in rural areas. Medical personnel present in such disadvantaged areas are often limited in their capabilities by these conditions. Drones can get into almost any location, rural or otherwise, requiring only a small patch of open ground for landing and lifting off.
Lowered Cost of Medical Care
According to research cited by Timothy Amukele, getting medical supplies and samples to and from rural areas is very expensive. This in turn results in high cost of medicines and medical care. With the reduction in costs from using drones, it is much cheaper to transport the supplies, and care for the patients. This would go a long way to developing a healthier society, especially in third world countries.
A major constraint of using drones in medical supply is related to the takeoff and landing procedure which may jar the supplies or samples within the package and denature or spoil them. The solution to this is a likely modification of the hardware, and this will not be too far off into the future. Legislation to allow commercial drone flights within residential areas is underway, with the success of the drone delivery in Virginia earlier this year, where packages weighing 4.5kg were transported in 3 minutes over a distance of about 1.5 miles. The evidence is clear that unmanned transport of medical supplies would revolutionize medical care and provide better conditions for millions of people.