The Safety of Drone Transportation Of Blood Products

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A robot is a programmable machine that process information from a computer but also performs physical tasks such as dangerous jobs, transporting packages, crime fighting and many more. There are also more advanced robots that use artificial intelligence like Siri. Robots are always involved in our lives. For example, when you drive you use GPS and when you don’t know something you could ask siri but it could also have an error and most robots need electricity to work and be connected to the internet.

With drones on the other hand they only need electricity, bluetooth and they need to be programmed or be manually piloted by someone. That’s the good thing about drones its efficient and environmentally friendly unlike other transportation methods. Drones have improved throughout the years by battery, distance and safety.

Modern medicine requires blood. It is a crucial element to the successful treatment of countless conditions.Blood transfusions are by far the most common procedure performed in most hospitals.

The only problem is that, at least right now, the blood we use for human transfusions has to come from humans. This blood, though, has a shelf life. Red blood cells, the most commonly transfused blood product, have a government mandated shelf life of 42 days in the US, 35 days in Europe, and similar numbers in the rest of the world.

There are additional tests to determine blood type and to assure it’s safe to transfuse and then it’s packaged up and sent to hospitals via truck. As a whole, NHS Blood and Transplant aims to have between 40,000-50,000 units of blood in their system at any given time to deal with surges in demand. While red blood cells will last for about a month, platelets and other blood products will last for less than a week so this whole process has to be sped up.

The sub saharan African country of Rwanda operates a system of universal healthcare Rwanda has been identified as having one of the best healthcare systems in Africa. One of the most visible of these innovations has to do with how the country’s hospitals get their blood. They’ve outsourced much of the country’s blood delivery to a company called Zipline and Zipline delivers blood to hospitals across Rwanda by drone.

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This is one of the world’s first commercial applications of drone delivery. While companies like Google and Amazon are testing drone delivery in developed countries, Rwanda, a developing country, already has a full-scale, nearly country-wide drone delivery system in service right now.

How is works is this. The drones currently service 21 hospitals in the western half of the country. The closest is just 4 kilometers from Zipline’s facility in Muhanga with the furthest being 80 kilometers away. Any of these hospitals can place an order with Zipline pretty much in any way they can email, text, phone and WhatsApp.

The product is packaged into boxes. The whole process is designed to be as simple as possible so these boxes are single-use—they’re assembled on-site from cardboard, bubble wrap, and tape with the parachute made from paper. That way nobody has to drive out to hospitals to pick parachutes and boxes up. From there, the box is passed through the window and a bell is rung to let the next person know the delivery is ready.

There are few weather conditions that these drones can’t fly through they can handle severe wind, rain, and lightning but if they can’t make it to their destination they can also use one of these pre-set holding patterns to turn around. While the drones have improved greatly since a few years ago, a critical fault does happen every few hundred or so flights. In this case, the drone has a built-in parachute that it triggers itself to safely fall back to the ground. Crucially, no one has ever been injured by a Zipline drone.

The drones fly at 60 miles or 100 kilometers per hour so they reach the nearest hospitals in mere minutes while the furthest hospitals, about 50 miles or 80 kilometers away, require about a 50 minute flight to reach. The drone will approach the delivery point, circle around to lose altitude, then fly a few hundred feet over a predetermined landing spot, open its belly doors, and drop the package.The parachute will slow its fall but impact is also softened by the bubble wrap inside.

While most deliveries just serve to restock these sites, about a third are for emergency situations where a hospital is out of stock of a particular blood product that a patient needs. Of course, the drone solution is just a bandage on a wider problem of poor transportation infrastructure in Rwanda and other developing countries, but, at least in the long period of time a developing country waits to be developed, drone delivery might be an effective solution for improving medical logistics fast.

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