Life-Saving Drones In Healthcare

The combination of the global pandemic and supply chain shortages continues straining industries across the world. Limited materials, delays in shipments, and personnel shortages have all taken a toll. 

Those in medical services were hit particularly hard.

Hospitals, for example, face capacity issues, limited medical supplies, and a shortage of medical professionals. Doctors, nurses, and support staff work extra hours, resulting in both increased stress and worker fatigue.

For many, the situation is a dire one.

However, through it all, one silver lining emerged: increased awareness and use of drones in healthcare.

From transporting human organs to vaccines, UAVs are safer, less expensive, and more efficient than many traditional methods.

Capable of saving thousands of lives, a few unique uses hold the greatest potential for growth and adoption by the medical community.

Zipline Delivers

One of the first companies to see the potential for drones in healthcare was California-based Zipline.

Since 2014, the company has focused on one mission: “To provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies.” Over the last seven years, Zipline’s self-flying drones have made a tremendous difference for those in need.

One of the best examples of Zipline’s success is their operation in Ghana.

Before Zipline, people in remote regions of the country had limited access to life-saving medical supplies, like blood and vaccines.

Starting in 2019, Zipline built numerous distribution centers in Ghana, capable of reaching over 12 million people with drones. To date, Zipline has made more than 50,000 successful deliveries, including over a million vaccines.

Shortly after, Zipline expanded its operations to include the United States, Nigeria, India, Rwanda, and Ivory Coast.

Now, others are following Zipline’s lead, successfully using UAVs as medical delivery platforms.

Organ Delivery

In 2019, the world witnessed an organ transported via drone for the first time.

The organ, a kidney, was successfully transplanted into a 44-year-old woman who spent eight years on dialysis.

This proof-of-concept operation opened the door for future organ deliveries, which traditionally rely on ambulances for transportation.

When using ambulances, a number of problems can arise. Vehicles can get lost, stuck in traffic, or have accidents of their own. With drones, these problems are largely eliminated.

Of course, the biggest enemy in the organ transplant process is time.

Once a donor and recipient are matched, the logistics of moving an organ between locations is complex, and sometimes frustrating.

For every hour an organ is on cold ischemia time (the length of time it’s chilled for transportation purposes), the quality of the organ diminishes.

But, since drones in healthcare bypass most of these limitations, they make ideal organ carriers.

It’s a fairly new concept with plenty of room for growth, but to date, UAVs have also successfully transported a pancreas and pair of lungs.

Automated External Defibrillators

Approximately 16% of all deaths are related to heart disease, making it the number one killer of people worldwide.

In fact, less than 10% of people who experience cardiac arrest outside a hospital setting survive. However, CPR and defibrillation nearly double the chances of survival.

The problem? Automated external defibrillators (AED) aren’t exactly commonplace.

They must be carried to the scene by ambulance – or more recently, by drones.

Although still early in the development phase, drone-delivered AED’s can mean the difference between life and death.

In fact, on Dec. 9, 2021, the life a 71-year-old man was saved when a drone delivered an AED to the scene of his cardiac arrest. With the aid of a nearby doctor and the fast-delivered AED, the man’s life was spared.

When asked about the experience, the patient replied, “I can’t put into words how thankful I am to this new technology and the speedy delivery of the defibrillator. If it wasn’t for the drone I probably wouldn’t be here.”

Though the system isn’t ready for widespread rollout yet, it’s already demonstrated life-saving abilities.

Several countries are experimenting with the technology, especially in rural areas. In side-be-side comparisons against traditional medics, drones beat EMS services to the scene every time. 

On average, drones delivering these AEDs arrived on location nearly two minutes sooner than ambulances. With chances of survival decreasing 7-10% for every minute before defibrillation, two extra minutes are priceless.

The Takeaways of Drones in Healthcare

Thanks to their speed, efficiency, and ability to bypass traffic and roads, drones provide tremendous advantages for medical services. 

But, the most exciting aspect about drones in the healthcare industry is that we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible.

The innovative spirit of the drone industry continues to produce new and amazing advancements to improve the world. As technologies and ideas keep pushing forward, the future of drones remains a healthy one.

So, which drone is right for you? And, how do you get started? Do you hire out or bring your drone program in-house?

At Consortiq, we help you find a better way with drones, from consultation and program implementation to actually doing the work for you.

Ready to learn more? Just complete the form below to schedule a risk-free consultation!

Picture of David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.