Drones Could Be Used To Fly Blood Samples To Remote Medical Centers

Pathologist Dr Timothy Amukele (left) with Robert Chalmers (right) created a drone courier system that transports blood to remote areas. John Hopkins University.

Blood-filled drones could soon become a reality, at least for transportation of samples to hard-to-reach testing centers. A new proof-of-concept study between John Hopkins Hospital and Uganda’s Makerere University was announced this week in a paper published in PLOS ONE.

In a study collaboration led by John Hopkins pathologist Dr Timothy Amukele, researchers and engineers wanted to test the effects of this unusual transportation method on blood that needs to be screened.

Drones are currently being tested for transporting parcels and less delicate materials. Drones can be hardy carrier vehicles and are built to sustain impact from bumping into other objects while airborne and upon delivery. "Such movements could have destroyed blood cells or prompted blood to coagulate, and I thought all kinds of blood tests might be affected, but our study shows they weren't, so that was cool," Amukele notes in a statement.

For the study, 56 volunteers donated six samples of blood each, which were then split into two different groups. Half of the blood samples were controls, and the rest were packaged for the test drone flights, flying by drone for between six and 38 minutes to see if time in transit could be a factor in quality. After their brief stint in the air, the samples were unloaded and taken back to the hospital for an array of common tests, the results of which were compared with the samples that hadn’t been flown.

No "systematic differences" were found between the two types of blood samples.

Researchers hope to next test the drones on their ability to deliver medicine to actual testing centers in rural areas, where transport by car or on foot would be difficult.

[H/T: Popular Science]

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