A drone has transported human tissue between two hospitals for the first time in Europe today. The aircraft completed a 1.2 kilometer course in four minutes, flew at an altitude of 80 meters and reached a speed of 36 km/h. That will be 60 km/h after the test phase.
The drone flew from the Antwerp ZNA Middelheim to the GZA Sint-Augustinus hospital, but did not do so in a straight line. The aircraft flew according to the VRT during this test phase, after all, over as many green and sparsely populated zones of the city of Antwerp as possible for safety reasons. The parking spaces for patients of the respective hospitals were also banned. Travel time was four minutes, including one minute for takeoff and one minute for landing.
The aircraft was carrying human tissue that had been removed during surgery. That tissue had to be transferred to a laboratory in one of the two hospitals to be checked for tumor cells. After 30 minutes, the result of that analysis was known and the doctor in the other hospital found out whether he could complete the operation or not. According to a hospital employee, this method allows a patient to be removed from anesthesia much faster.
According to Tom Van de Vreken, spokesperson for the Hospital Network Antwerp, drones are much faster and more reliable than traditional road transport. “There are no traffic jams or traffic lights in the sky,” it sounds. “In addition, a drone is powered by a battery or hydrogen, which means that no harmful substances are released.” He also mentions that a single drone operator can help control multiple drones while road traffic requires a driver for each trip.
For this first, the Antwerp hospitals collaborated with Helicus, an Antwerp company that specializes in medical drone surgery. Helicus got in June of this year became the first company in Europe to fly a drone out of sight over urban agglomerations. According to Mikael Shamim, the company’s CEO, transporting human tissue is a first step. “There is so much more possible, with blood, other samples or medication, for example.” According to the man, the next step is to be able to reach an unclear start or end point on a route. In the longer term, the company is also thinking of transporting patients via drones.
Drone from Helicus