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Autonomous drone successfully delivers temperature-controlled drugs in test programme

Published on 17/07/19 at 11:57am

A humanitarian consortium has successfully completed a testing programme for the delivery of temperature-controlled medicines via the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Direct Relief announced that its fourth proof-of-concept mission testing the technology was a success, with an operator flying a UAV over open water between the islands of the Bahamas and out of line of sight. The test was conducted fully autonomously using cold-chain delivery technology, capable of transporting medicines and vaccines at temperatures as low as -70°C.

During the test, temperature of the cargo was tracked and monitored throughout in real-time via cloud technology. The project could mean a huge step forward in tackling the challenges of delivering medicines to hard-to-reach areas of the world and aid in humanitarian health efforts.

“Experience and research consistently show that those most at risk of health crisis in disasters live in communities which are likely to be cut off from essential health care due to disruption of transportation and communications,” said Andrew Schroeder, who leads analytics programmes, data visualisation, and geospatial analytics for Direct Relief. “Drone delivery is one of the most promising answers to this problem. More remains to be done to operationalise medical cargo drones in emergencies. But successful tests like this one demonstrate that remarkable new humanitarian capabilities are emerging quickly.”

The organisation now hopes to push the pilot programme onto testing in Africa and Latin America.

Matt Fellows

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