Clinical laboratories continue to test sample delivery by drone as a viable alternative to ground transport
In Switzerland, another clinical laboratory drone delivery service recently launched and it has several unique capabilities. This new pilot project to test the delivery of medical laboratory samples by UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle, aka drone) is being conducted by the Dr. Risch laboratory group and start-up drone company Jedsy.
What makes the Risch/Jedsy drone delivery service unique when compared to other drone delivery services is their drone’s capability to deliver directly to windows, regardless of where that window is. This, according to a Jedsy news release, “makes the transport of samples faster and more environmentally friendly.”
Dr. Risch group has 14 clinical laboratories and eight sample collection locations throughout Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) approved Dr. Risch’s first flight between its lab in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, to its lab in Buchs St. Gallen, sUAS News reported. Risch began transporting lab samples between those locations on an experimental basis in December of 2022.
The Jedsy glider, as the drone is called, has a distinctive vertical takeoff, hover, and landing capability. Once it achieves a safe altitude, it transitions to forward flight and can travel at speeds up to 150 kilometers per hour or about 93 miles per hour.
All systems on the Jedsy drone are redundant and developed to be fail-safe. A human drone operator follows the flight visually via a livestream connection. Once the drone approaches a building for landing, with the exception of the docking station the entire surrounding area is blurred to ensure the privacy of nearby individuals.
The Jedsy Glider (above) is quieter than other multicopters, according to Jedsy, and is able to dock outside a window or balcony. This enables the convenient loading and unloading of clinical laboratory specimens in any type of weather. The docking station also serves as a charger for the drone’s battery to ensure the craft is available for use at any time. Similar medical laboratory sample drone delivery services have been tested in Switzerland but none with Dr. Risch Labs’ unique window delivery option. (Photo copyright: Jedsy.)
Why Transport Clinical Laboratory Samples by Drone?
“The last two years during the COVID-19 pandemic have shown convincingly how important this service is for the healthcare sector,” explained the medical laboratory group’s founder and CEO, Martin Risch, MD, in the Jedsy press release.
Risch envisions a need for drones in certain medical situations. Dr. Risch currently employs about 50 courier drivers who transport by ground medical samples to regional medical laboratories throughout Switzerland every day.
“If, however, the courier vehicles are stuck in traffic or if they are driving during rush hour, the planned daily routine regarding the analysis and the medical diagnosis is delayed. We hope that this will allow us to offer an even better service, which will ultimately benefit the patients,” Risch stated.
Jedsy has already utilized its glider drone successfully in Africa to deliver laboratory specimens and medicines to remote locations and looks forward to its continued benefits.
“With the new drone, we have already gained important flying experience in Malawi, where over 5,000 flights have been performed as part of the UNICEF drone corridor,” said aerospace engineer Herbert Weirather, founder and CEO of Jedsy, in the press release. “Health centers have already been supplied with critical medicines by Jedsy and the service is being expanded continuously,” he added.
Use of Drones to Deliver Clinical Laboratory Samples Growing Worldwide
Utilizing drones to deliver medical supplies and laboratory specimens is not a new concept and has been tested several times in the past. Dark Daily has previously reported on some of the projects that have been attempted.
In “Oregon-based Interpath Laboratory Launches Pilot Program to Explore Delivering Biological Specimens by Drone from Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center,” we covered how Interpath Laboratory in the Pacific Northwest had launched a drone delivery pilot program for delivering lab testing specimens from Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center to Interpath’s medical laboratory in Pendleton, Oregon.
In “SUNY Upstate Medical University and NUAIR Complete Trial Delivery Service of Medical Supplies on Campus Using Unmanned Drones,” we discussed how drones were being used to transport medical supplies and laboratory specimens between locations at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York.
And in, “Hospitals in United States and Germany Team Up with Matternet and UPS to Make Medical Laboratory Deliveries by Drone the New Normal,” Dark Daily outlined how hospitals in North Carolina and Germany were beginning to use drones for clinical laboratory sample delivery services.
The use of drones to deliver clinical laboratory specimens is a rising trend that could be extremely beneficial for healthcare systems, medical professionals, and patients. A number of clinical laboratories in the US and around the world have initiated drone pilot programs, however, there has been little follow-up press coverage about either the success of these efforts or whether they continue to operate.
Nevertheless, faster delivery of laboratory specimens can lead to more timely diagnoses which can potentially lead to better patient outcomes. In the future, it’s likely more clinical laboratories will receive specimens via drones.