Wingcopter transports blood samples in Germany

Greifswald; GERMANY – It has not so much been charity begins at home with many successful medical drone logistics enterprises today, as they have had to travel thousands of kilometres from their home bases in North America, Europe and Australia just so they could show the world the enormous opportunities presented by drone technology as an emergency medical logistics alternative.

Except for AerialMetric, of course. That one is proudly made in Madagascar and has been embraced and welcomed in its home country, trusted to transported medical supplies across and deep into the rainforest where a lot of remote communities live.

From the USA, Zipline found a home in hilly Rwanda, from where they have now spread to Ghana and Nigera; Swoop Aero has had operations in the DRC, Malawi and Mozambique; while Dutch drone company Avy have just found a base in Botswana.

Meanwhile, rising German start-up Wingcopter has also made a significant impact in countries like Tanzania, Vanuatu and Kenya before settling in Malawi, where they have also teamed with partners to train young Africans in the art of drone technology.

Obviously, one of the main reasons why these ventures have succeeded in Africa has been because the need for unmanned, low flying alternatives to the available road and water-based options for medical delivery was self-evident. Medical drone logistics have taken root in rural communities where the transport infrastructure has been non-existent or below standard, coupled with bare skies which the drones would be sharing only with birds.

Which would make Wingcopter’s inaugural home bow in the modestly populated town of Greifswald last week sensible.

Not that they have bad roads in the town located in the North-Western federal state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania; the folks there are just looking for faster means of transporting blood samples, and in trials last week, Wingcopter provided just that.

The company flew its drone for eighteen minutes to cover the distance between Griefswald and Wolgast while carrying blood samples, in fulfilment of the MV/LIFE/DRONE Challenge project by the Greifswald University Medical Centre’s Department of Anaesthesiology.

Run in cooperation with the university and emergency medical services provider DRF Luftrettung, the MV/LIFE/DRONE Challenge project intends to improve structures of regional emergency care by integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the rescue chain and emergency medical transports.

“With this project, we have demonstrated that we can also improve medical care and quality of life in rural areas in Germany,” said Ansgar Kadura, co-founder and CSO of Wingcopter. “With our new unmanned aerial vehicle, the Wingcopter 198, this can be carried out even more efficiently in the future. We look forward to continued collaboration with the project team at the Department of Anesthesiology as part of the MV/LIFE/DRONE Challenge and beyond.”

The flight missions – which obviously went beyond the pilots’ visual line of sight (BVLOS) – saw the drone transporting a pneumatic tube including 250 grams of blood samples. The eighteen minutes the drone took to cover the 26-kilometer route was nearly twice as fast as ground-based transport.

“The use of Wingcopter drones could thus significantly speed up emergency medical care in rural areas and help save lives,” the company said in a statement. “In the event of a blood transfusion being necessary at short notice, for example, blood samples from Wolgast District Hospital would have to be transported to Greifswald University Hospital for analysis in order to determine the appropriate donor blood.”

The goal of Greifswald University Medical Centre is to establish permanent flight connections between the medical centre in Greifswald and hospitals in the surrounding area as soon as possible, Wingcopter added. Drones are also to be used to support first responders on site, for example by quickly transporting medications, transfusions, or emergency medical equipment such as defibrillators to the scene of an accident.

Dr. Mina Baumgarten, project manager of the MV/LIFE/DRONE-Challenge project was hopeful that this project would be fruitful in the immediate term.

“We are continuing to work towards the goal of shortening long distances in the region for the benefit of our population. Key to this is the integration of new technologies into existing rescue and care systems as part of comprehensive care concepts. The next step on the way to realizing this must be to transfer tests into longer-term use under real-world circumstances; the conditions in the region are ideal for this.”

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Energy, Infrastructure and Digitalisation of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.


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