The Swiss aviation regulator has given the green light to a plan by Swiss Post to fly laboratory samples such as blood between hospitals using drones.
Swiss Post said that since mid-March it had been working with the EOC hospital group in the Ticino region and drone manufacturer Matternet on drone flights in the city of Lugano.
Now the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation has granted Matternet permission to fly delivery drones autonomously over cities, opening the way for drone delivery flights.
Drones will start to transport samples that are currently carried by road between the Italiano and Civico hospitals in 2018, said Swiss Post, after further testing.
When flights start hospital staff will load the drone independently with a safety box and launch the drone with a smartphone application to fly along a predefined route to its destination.
US-based Matternet’s drone can carry goods weighing up to 2kg. It has a maximum range of 20km and an average speed of 36km/h. It is equipped with backup sensors such as an altimeter and a parachute in case of failure.
A landing pad transmits an infrared signal to help it to take off and land.
Swiss Post said it was also testing other autonomous systems, such as delivery robots and intelligent shuttles.
It said that since mid-March there had been around 70 test drone flights between the two hospital locations.
“The partners will carry out further test flights until 4 April, after which an initial evaluation will take place. Further testing with flights is planned over a one-month period in summer 2017,” it said.
In October Rwanda launched a drone service to deliver urgent medical supplies to inaccessible clinics in the mountainous west of the country. It is expected to make between 50 and 150 lifesaving deliveries of materials such as blood to clinics daily.
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