Drone payloads to become vital in supplying medicines, test results in COVID-19 pandemic

July 30, 2020  - By

As the world goes in quarantine and social-distancing has become a necessity with COVID-19 pandemic, various measures have been taken to fulfill basic needs of humans. The medical sector is facing a lot of troubles as the number of cases has been increasing day by day and keeping up with the enough supply of necessary equipment and medicines is becoming difficult. Among various measures taken by hospitals and government, utilizing drone payloads for supplying medicines, transferring tests and specimens, and spreading disinfectants has become a new way to facilitate operations. From India to Canada and the U.S., the governments and tech firms have been developing drones that can carry loads and travel up to certain distance to speed up medical and healthcare processes. The market for drone payload is gaining momentum. According to the report published by Allied Market Research, the global drone payload market is expected to generate $7.01 billion by 2022. Following are some of the activities taking place across the world.

On the verge of COVID-19 outbreak, various measures have been taken by governments to control the spread and eliminate completely. Among the measures taken by various governments is disinfecting the cities. Bengaluru, a city from Karnataka, India has been disinfected with the help of drones. Six hexacopter drones have been deployed. They are equipped with 15 liters of disinfectants for various localities of the city. These drones have been developed by startups Alpha drones and Multiplex. It has five kilometer range and has ability to fly for 25–30 minutes based on the payload. The pre-set speed of drones is at 6 meters per second. Nearly 10–15 meters of area is covered based on the altitude. The cetrifuger automiser pump technology is utilized for spreading the disinfectant in air and on lands. Highly crowded areas such as markets, bus stops, railway stations, and others will be covered and drones will be operated for 6–7 hours each day.

Along with spreading disinfectants, there have been another medical uses. Urban drone stations have been utilized for logistic medical payload exchange in hospitals. The Matternet Station at Mountain View, California, is a structure that can be mounted on ground or rooftops. It is three meters in height and offers personal safety. Hospitals can utilize the stations for transferring pathology specimens, blood diagnostics, and medicines to other facilities and suppliers. It also offers fast, secure, and predictable aerial delivery.

Each Station is equipped with its own automated aerial deconfliction system for management of drone traffic at the Station. The Station enables Matternet M2 drones to carry out a precision landing. Then the drone is locked in the particular place and executes swapping of payload and battery. There is a Matternet Cloud that directs flight directors an ability to control and track operations. Moreover, an integrated authentication system enables only authorized personnel to insert or take out payload through scanning of hospital identification badge. Then there is a tracking of payload at each touch point for maintenance of strong custody. Ideally, it can hold four boxes of payloads that are held at the controlled temperature for maintaining integrity of specimen. Andreas Raptopoulos, CEO of Matternet, outlined that the technology platform will be utilized for rapid, point-to-point, and urban medical deliveries. This way, hospital systems are able to reduce patient waiting times and carry out savings of millions of dollars each year.

Another company has taken measures to contribute to countering the outbreak of COVID-19. Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) would bring its own drone delivery system by the mid April for delivery of blood test, blood samples, and medicines. Michael Zahra, president and CEO of DDC, outlined that it is a necessity to bring an automated and unmanned delivery system of drones to supply medical necessities to the right people at rapid pace. The company possesses the drone that can take off from the starting point, reach destination, drop the cargo and return.

Zahra have been encouraging hospitals, communities, pharmacies, healthcare centers, and others to build a case for the support from government. He added that logistics differ in each scenario, however, the basic setup can be achieved. There is a minimum required infrastructure available at the starting point. On the other hand, there is no infrastructure at the destination point.

Its Sparrow drone can carry nearly 10 pounds of payload in a single trip and can travel up to 30 kilometers. The company has a portfolio of two drones. First is Robin, which carries the payload of 25 pounds with a travelling distance capability of 35 kilometers. Another is Condor, which have capability to carry 400 pounds and go up to 200 kilometers. With the Special Flight Operations Certificate, the company’s drones can navigate throughout Canada without the need to outline flight plans regarding routes prior to trips. Once it obtains the permission and support from government to implement drones for medical purposes, it would implement its model and accelerate the supply in this grave situation the world has been facing.

Get detailed COVID-19 impact analysis on the drone payload industry here.

Pratik Kirve holds a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering. He is currently a senior specialist — content writer at Allied Analytics LLP. He has avid interest in writing news articles across different verticals.

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