Blood delivery drone sets new distance record

Blood delivery drone sets new distance record

5:12 AM, 18th September 2017
Temperature-controlled specimen transport container designed by Johns Hopkins researchers is packed with blood sample test tubes.
Temperature-controlled specimen transport container designed by Johns Hopkins researchers is packed with blood sample test tubes.

BALTIMORE, US: Johns Hopkins researchers have set a new delivery distance record for medical drones, successfully transporting human blood samples across 161 miles of Arizona desert. Throughout the three-hour flight, they reported, the onboard payload system maintained temperature control, ensuring the samples were viable for laboratory analysis after landing.

In a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology, the researchers said the accomplishment adds to evidence that unmanned aircraft can be an effective, safe and timely way to quickly transport medical samples from remote sites to laboratories.

“We expect that in many cases, drone transport will be the quickest, safest and most efficient option to deliver some biological samples to a laboratory from rural or urban settings,” said Timothy Amukele, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the paper’s senior author.

“Drones can operate where there are no roads, and overcome conditions that disable wheeled vehicles, traffic and other logistical inefficiencies that are the enemy of improved, timely patient diagnoses and care,” Amukele said. “Drones are likely to be the 21st century’s best medical sample delivery system.”

Building on previous work by Amukele’s team, the investigators collected pairs of 84 blood samples at the University of Arizona in Tucson, then drove them 76 miles to an airfield.

The Johns Hopkins team previously studied the impact of drone transportation on the chemical, hematological and microbial makeup of drone-flown blood samples over distances up to 20 miles, and found that none were negatively affected. The team plans further and larger studies in US and overseas.

“Getting diagnostic results far more quickly under difficult conditions will almost certainly improve care and save more lives,” Amukele said.

Other authors on this study include Jeff Street of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Christine LH Snozek and James Hernandez of the Mayo Clinic in Arizona; and Ryan G. Wyatt, Matthew Douglas and Richard Amini of the University of Arizona.

Funding for this study was provided by Peter Kovler of the Blum-Kovler Foundation.

© Johns Hopkins University 

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