Drones for the delivery of medicines

Contactless, fast and efficient way to deliver emergency supplies

The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus has forced the whole world to look for new ways to solve complex problems not only in economics and politics, but also in the field of health and community security. While scientists and doctors fight to contain the pandemic and find vaccines and other means of protection against it, people have to take various measures to solve the most urgent problems.

It is not difficult to see specific statistics in dynamics for each country today, and so far it looks extremely alarming. Governments and local authorities are taking tough measures to contain the virus, up to the complete closure of countries and individual regions (cities) for external access. In such cases, the question of logistics arises, the delivery of not only food, but also medicines and other medical supplies to quarantine zones.

For the first time in such difficult conditions, the Chinese authorities tested unmanned technologies not only to control the situation on the ground, but also to deliver essential items by drones. Thus, several goals were achieved at once: to deliver everything necessary to the infected areas and to protect the rescue personnel from infection. The success of these innovative approaches has been replicated in other countries.

The use of drones to deliver essentials is nothing new. DJI and several of the company’s partners in different countries have previously tested this method. It led to positive results, albeit on a limited scale. The rapid spread of COVID-19 forced the expansion of the experiment and the use of drones in real conditions to deliver medicines and emergency supplies. Several examples show how effective these efforts have been.

the UK: remote virus testing and drug delivery

Although today the UK and the tragic news from it about the spread of the coronavirus occupy almost the leading places in the news reports, the situation in the country does not look depressing in all regions. The reasons for this state of affairs may be different. For example, the south of the UK was not as affected by the epidemic as the north. It is possible that, among other factors, the actions of local authorities also played a role (in Lombardy, where the infamous Bergamo is located, many blame the local governor for the incapacity).

DJI Matrice 200 V2 Series Drone with Airborne Medical Container
DJI Matrice 200 V2 Series Drone with Airborne Medical Container

Meanwhile, the first disturbing news about the infection began to arrive in the fall of 2019. And in November of the same year, the authorities of Naples (Southern the UK) took a number of preventive measures. In particular, the English Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) and Monaldi Hospital, together with Elite Consulting, the English authorized partner of DJI Enterprise, tested a delivery solution based on unmanned aerial vehicles. The idea was that in conditions that threaten the health of not only ordinary citizens, but also medical staff and police, drones would deliver medical materials to the place, in particular, they would be able to transport from the hospital to settlements within a radius of 5 kilometers.

The proposed solution is based on the capabilities of the DJI Matrice 210 V2 industrial drone. It is a versatile vehicle with a flexible payload system and is designed to operate in virtually any weather. In order to use the car for transport purposes, the Englishs made a special delivery container for it (moreover, the design of the container could be changed). Depending on the nature and volume of the cargo, the dimensions of the container could be adjusted. By creating such a system, doctors and other professionals responsible for solving the problem provided a greater level of security and accelerated the delivery of the necessary things. Instead of 35 minutes, transportation now takes only 3 minutes.

Mexico: Drones help solve the problem in traffic jams

In many cases, the timing of the delivery of medicines and other essential products is critical. In Mexico, the issue of fast transportation is more acute than anywhere else, because the country has one of the most congested transport systems in the world. According to some studies, commuting to work for Mexican citizens takes up to 45 days a year (if you count the total duration of being in traffic jams). Because of this, road traffic often poses a risk to rescue services, especially when life is at risk.

The doctor places the necessary medical preparations in the drone container
The doctor places the necessary medical preparations in the drone container

In Mexico, there is a special service company Sincronia Logistica, which transports medicines to all regions and towns of the country. The company’s management has always been aware of the need to improve the delivery system and introduce innovative solutions to increase efficiency and reduce transportation times. In addition to the problem with traffic jams, other factors also speak in favor of innovation: the frequency of emergencies (earthquakes and other natural disasters), the difficult terrain of the country, and the unfavorable criminal situation. Currently, Sincronia Logistica has begun to widely use unmanned aerial vehicles for the delivery of medicines.

The company has also bet on the DJI Matrice 200 V2 series of industrial drones. Today, these machines deliver materials from the warehouse directly to hospitals when complex and mission-critical operations need to be performed. In particular, the first successful experiment was carried out on the basis of the ISSTE Bicentenario hospital, one of the largest medical institutions in Mexico. The first experiments showed that the delivery time of medicines was reduced by 80%, which made it possible to extend the experience to other institutions of the healthcare system.

Supporting Remote, Underserved Communities with Drone Delivery, Dominican Republic

Isolated communities across the Dominican Republic are having difficulty accessing quality healthcare, especially in mountainous areas where transportation to hospitals is long and expensive. Hospitals in these remote communities often do not have the infrastructure or supplies to deal with all the issues they face. This leads to the fact that some patients have to be transported for treatment to the nearest cities, and this is a waste of precious time and money.

Using DJI Matrice 600 Pro Series Drones to Deliver Essentials
Using DJI Matrice 600 Pro Series Drones to Deliver Essentials

A non-profit organization dedicated to the development of humanitarian solutions using technology, WeRobotics and the DR Drone Innovation Center have taken on this problem through the Flying Labs program. The public hospitals El Coco and Los Montacitos, located 10 km from the nearest regional hospital, Bohechio, were chosen for the experiment.

In this case, the project participants relied on the DJI Matrice 600 Pro flying platform, which they equipped with a special container for the delivery of goods. It should be borne in mind that the M600 Pro is capable of delivering up to 6 kg of payload in one flight. Between June and July 2019, WeRobotics operated a total of 101 flights, delivering 21.25 kg of medical supplies and blood samples for testing to public hospitals.

The future of drug delivery

As the cases described above show, drones have been able to accomplish a number of important tasks: they have been able to cover the necessary distance with a payload, reduce the time of delivery of priority items, and provide much-needed supplies for doctors and patients. In the near future, the supply of medical supplies, consumables and other priority supplies based on unmanned aerial vehicles will become an international trend. Today, several dozen projects around the world use UAVs to deliver medical supplies to people in need.

The recent outbreak of the virus may require these projects to be scaled up faster than many thought as many communities remain in lockdown and healthcare providers need to find effective ways to treat patients while reducing the risk of cross-contamination. Unmanned solutions offer a fast and contactless means of delivering materials, two key benefits in the fight against a highly contagious virus such as COVID-19.

During this challenging time, DJI is encouraging innovation in projects like these, as they will be and are becoming an example of how drones can positively impact our healthcare system and help in emergencies.

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