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Drones Capable of Delivering Blood Products

7 december 2016

Drones—small pilotless aircrafts—are capable of delivering packages cheaply and are not limited to passable roads or constrained by traffic. Rwanda started using drones to deliver blood products this year. Researchers in the United States recently investigated the use of drones to deliver blood products that need to be maintained at a constant temperature during transport. Six platelet units (storage temperature 20 to 24ᴼC), 6 red blood cell (RBC) units stored in AS-1 (storage temperature 1 to 6ᴼC), and 6 unthawed plasma samples frozen within 24 hours of collection (FP24) (stored at -80ᴼC) were flown for 22+4.5 minutes on drones. For each flight, 2 to 3 units were packed in a cooler with either thermal packs for the platelets, wet ice for the RBCs, or dry ice for FP24. Storage temperatures were maintained for all flights, and no impact on the blood products was observed. Drones have the potential to help millions of people to quickly gain access to blood products and other medical supplies, but further research and regulatory changes are required.