Sankt Antonius is testing the transport of medical materials with drones

St. The Antonius Hospital in Utrecht in Nieuwegein is researching the use of medical drones for the transfer of medical materials such as blood samples and biopsies. The hospital carries out the research as part of the Medical Drone Service.

The Medical Drone Service is a consortium created on the initiative of PostNL and ANWB Medical Air Assistance. Various parties are involved in the consortium. For example, KPN and the drone manufacturer AVY provide technical support. Erasmus MC, Isala, Sanquin, Certe, Resultlab, Amsterdam UMC and St. Antonius is connected to the project from the medical world.

Keep care available and accessible

With the use of innovative mobility solutions, the consortium wants to contribute to keeping healthcare accessible and accessible throughout the Netherlands. Drones play an important role in this. The use of drones should bring healthcare closer to patients faster and closer. Drones also need to connect care settings.

The parties use a drone developed by the Amsterdam company AVY. The device has a striking design. For example, the drone is equipped with a large yellow wing, which provides carrying capacity, just like an airplane. For example, the device can cover a distance of almost a hundred kilometers on a battery charge with a load of 3 kilos.

Replaceable battery

The drone is equipped with a replaceable battery. On arrival, this means that he can immediately set off again with a new battery, without charging time. The consortium is also working on a wireless charging system that allows the drone to charge on a platform.

The medical drone can transport a load of 3 kg of medical material. A special room is available for this material, which cannot freeze or get too hot thanks to insulation.

Unclear when flights will start

It is still unclear when the drone will enter the airspace in Utrecht. Project manager Bart Deege from St. Antonius Hospital: “We still need to sort out some practical things, such as the construction of a landing platform and the internal route, especially to the laboratory. There are still many questions, but I have no doubt that those drones will fly.”

Much still needs to be sorted out, says Angela Bikker, laboratory specialist attached to the Clinical Chemistry team at St. Antonius Hospital. “The fast connection offers many opportunities, not only for clinical chemistry, but also for, for example, pathology and microbiology. Currently, there are still couriers who sometimes deliver a large amount of material to the laboratory for research at the same time. The drone is not only faster, but the delivery can also be better spread over the day. For the next two years, the hospital will be part of the consortium that ultimately wants to roll out the medical drone nationwide,” says Bikker.

The consortium expects flights between Meppel and Zwolle to start early next year. This area has relatively few buildings and less air traffic than in the Utrecht region or the Randstad. the consortium is talking about an important step. Aviation regulations still need to be adjusted, something that the Medical Drone Service is working hard on.

Taste earlier

Several pilot projects with the drone have already been completed. At the end of 2020, the consortium conducted test flights for emergency medical transport by drone between the locations of the Isala hospital in Meppel and Zwolle. It was the first time in the Netherlands that a medical drone flew over a long distance over a sparsely populated area.

Test flights were also conducted over a shorter distance between Rhoon and Oud-Beijerland in South Holland last year. The drones took off from a meadow in Whoon and landed in Oud-Beijerland on a dike along the Oude Maas. The flights mapped what is needed to fly in the airspace between Erasmus MC and Zeeland.

Author: Wouter Hoeffnagel
Photos: PostNL / AVY

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