Medical drone operation launched in Ireland

Having made tentative forays into the Ireland healthcare logistics space last year, it seems drone company Wing and its UK partner Apian have been encouraged by their initial prospects, and have therefore made more connection to expand healthcare delivery by drone in the city of Dublin.

The two parties have just announced a partnership with private hospital group Blackrock Health and St. Vincent’s Private Hospital in Dublin, along with leading healthcare technology company, Medtronic to launch a drone delivery pilot programme, demonstrating the benefits drones could offer in healthcare logistics.

“The use of drones in medical logistics presents an exciting opportunity to get our life-saving technologies to the people who need them quicker than ever before,” said Kristian Howells, Group Commercial Director at Medtronic.

“Traditional supply chains have limitations that the inclusion of drones may help to overcome. What we learn from this pilot programme will help us to create more resilient supply chains that are patient focused.”

This delivery of Medtronic medical supplies to Blackrock Clinic, part of Blackrock Health Group, and St. Vincent’s Private Hospital, part of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, will be Ireland’s first ongoing medical device delivery service by drone.

Over the coming months, Wing and Apian will be deploying drones to carry medical supplies and devices between hospitals in the Dublin area, with the first items to be delivered comprising Medtronic’s ingestible camera, PillCam, sutures, surgical tools and heart valve repair products.

Plans are already underway to expand delivery services to pacemakers and Implantable Cardiac Defibrillators (ICDs) in the future.

The first deliveries will be received at Blackrock Health, Blackrock Clinic and St. Vincent’s Private Hospital in the coming days.

“At Blackrock Health, innovation is at the core of what we do, and this partnership is a prime example of the opportunities that exist when integrating technology into healthcare industry, with an added benefit of supporting our commitment to sustainability,” said Dr. Caroline Whelan, CEO of Blackrock Health.

“We are excited by the possibilities that come with this drone delivery service, and hope to expand this beyond receiving medical supplies, by extending use to other services in time between our hospitals.”

Medical drone delivery is spreading fast across the world, having proven its worth in African countries that include Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique and Ghana; countries where a combination of terrain, poor road network and seasonal rains have rendered some rural communities almost impossible to reach with conventional means of transport.

Now, Wing and Apian and their new partners are also hoping to trial the famed efficiency of drone technology that has been proven to provide faster, more reliable, and sustainable medical logistics in other locations – supporting patients as they receive the care they need sooner.

Medical drone deliveries also have the potential to create more efficient healthcare systems, with less wastage of medical supplies, and more space for patient-facing care facilities as providers receive what they need, when they need it.

“Wing is pleased to support a global leader in healthcare technology and two innovative hospitals to meet their needs for a more efficient delivery service for essential technology,” said Nicole Schone, Head of Marketing & Communications at Wing.

“We’re excited to be part of Ireland’s forward-looking healthcare technology market, and to expand our existing portfolio of retail and medical deliveries around the world. We look forward to this trial further demonstrating the clear value that Wing drone delivery has for the healthcare industry and beyond.”

Wing’s drones are lightweight and electric, and can make quicker and reliable deliveries, and currently boast of more than 350,000 commercial deliveries across the globe.

They will fly more direct routes and at speeds up to approximately 100km per hour, avoiding the traffic congestion on Dublin’s roads.

Currently, hospitals in Ireland largely depend on motor vehicles to transport medical supplies to hospitals or healthcare centres; however, urban locations experience frequent delays due to congestion, as well as associated higher carbon emissions.

“St Vincent’s Healthcare Group is continuously harnessing advances in science and research to provide innovative treatment and care to our patients,” St Vincent’s Private Hospital CEO, Brian Fitzgerald said.

“Participating in this trial continues this tradition and allows St Vincent’s Private Hospital to explore how integrating drone technology into our hospital can improve patient care, enhance supply chain management and enable us to operate more efficiently and sustainably.”

The programme will start with up to 100 weekly flights.

“Apian is delivering the future model for a more innovative and efficient healthcare system and we are very proud to be part of this new partnership,” said Hammad Jeilani, Founder and Medical Director of Apian.


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