The Digital City Nieuwegein : The St. Antonius Hospital in Utrecht and Nieuwegein is investigating the use of drones for transferring medical materials such as blood samples and biopsies. Transport between Nieuwegein, Utrecht, Houten and Woerden is then only a matter of minutes. Since the beginning of this year, the St. Antonius Hospital has been part of the Medical Drone Service (MDS) partnership. Post.nl and ANWB Medical Air Assistance are the initiators, technically supported by KPN and drone builder AVY. The medical partners include the Sanquin blood bank, laboratories and various hospitals, such as St. Antonius.
Project leader of the St. Antonius Hospital Bart Deege sees a bright future for the transport of medical goods by air. “The most difficult hurdle is the aviation rules that need to be adjusted for this. In addition, there are practical matters such as the construction of a landing platform and the internal route, in particular to the lab. There are still many questions, but I have no doubt that those drones will fly.”
MDS expects to start flying between Meppel and Zwolle for the Isala hospital early next year. The area has relatively few buildings and there is less air traffic than in the Utrecht region or the Randstad. This is an important step for the consortium.
The idea is that drones will eventually fly back and forth between hospitals, blood bank and laboratories throughout the Netherlands, controlled from the flight control center in The Hague. The ‘pilot’ can closely monitor the drones. Because the entire route and departure and arrival points are pre-programmed with GPS coordinates, the drones actually fly on autopilot. However, the pilot can always make adjustments.
The Medical Drone, developed by AVY from Amsterdam, has a completely different design than the usual consumer drone with four rotors. On the medical variant, the large yellow wing is particularly striking, which gives it carrying capacity just like an airplane. Although the aircraft also has four rotors, mainly intended for take-off and landing, once at a height of about 100 meters it mainly moves on only 1 rotor that propels the wing. On one battery charge, the device can travel a hundred kilometers with a cruising speed of approximately 80 kilometers per hour. Meanwhile, it can carry 3 kilograms of medical equipment. The battery is interchangeable so that the drone is quickly ready for a new mission. In the future, the drones will also be able to charge contactlessly on a platform.