It’s not just any cargo that Wingcopter’s drone is flying to its target: blood products to save lives. Twenty-six kilometres is the distance between Greifswald and Wolgast, where Wingcopter drones helped with the delivery in the northeastern German state of Mecklenburg. The flights were used by the Greifswald University Medical Centre in collaboration with the German Air Ambulance Service and Wingcopter, as part of the MV LIFE DRONE-Challenge project of the hospital’s Department of Anaesthesiology, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Health and the relevant state ministry of Mecklenburg with the aim of improving regional emergency care by integrating unmanned aircraft systems.
Pneumatic tubes containing 250 grams of blood samples were transported during beyond visual range of the pilot (BVLOS) flights. The drone covered the twenty-six-kilometre journey between the two cities in an average of 18 minutes, almost twice as fast as it could be transported by land. This makes it clear that the smart use of drones can significantly speed up emergency medical care and save lives, especially in rural areas.
When, for example, a blood transfusion is needed very quickly due to a road accident, not only is it necessary to get the donor blood to the scene, but blood typing must be done before, so every minute of gain in transport really does make a difference. But drones can also be used to support non-medical first responders on the ground, or as a useful tool for the rapid delivery of drugs, transfusions or emergency medical equipment.
Some countries in Europe, such as Poland and Sweden, have already taken initiatives and pilot projects in this direction, and Germany is leading the way in introducing drones into everyday life, as we wrote earlier about the testing of the U-Space concept.
Wingcopter co-founder Ansgar Kadura said of the healthcare project, “We have proven that we can improve medical care and quality of life in rural areas of Germany. With our new unmanned aircraft, the Wingcopter 198, this can be done even more efficiently in the future. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the anaesthesiology department project team as part of the DRONE Challenge and beyond.”
The Greifswald University Medical Centre aims to establish permanent flight connections between the surrounding hospitals as soon as possible, taking into account the expected benefits.
“We will continue to work on shortening the long distances in the region in order to provide care to the population. The key to this is to integrate new technologies into existing rescue and care systems as part of a comprehensive care concept”, Dr. Mina Baumgarten, Project Manager of the MV LIFE DRONE-Challenge, has already emphasized, adding.”