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Drone delivery takes medicine to new heights

The delivery of life saving blood has been taken to new heights by the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) with the launch a new drone blood delivery service.

Launched in May, the Tron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) drone, features a wing design suited for maximum efficiency and allows for long travel time with minimal power usage.

The drone has a range cover of over 100km and can travel up to 180km/h but can also travel as slowly as 60km/h if necessary, the SANBS said.

The drone is a highly specialised aircraft that will be used to transport blood from blood banks to hospitals.

Just like a helicopter, the Tron is capable of vertically taking off and landing. Once in flight, it switches into a highly efficient aircraft.

In an emergency the blood can be delivered to hospitals much faster and more efficiently.

According to the blood service, the Tron aerial vehicle will be a South African first, complementing the existing logistics infrastructure. It will continue to cement the non-profit organisation’s place as a thought leader and a cornerstone of the healthcare system in South Africa through the gift of life.

“We believe that this is an innovative step in the history of blood transfusion. SANBS is determined to improve rapid access to life-saving blood products in rural areas through the use of drone technology,” said SANBS CEO Jonathan Louw.

By using the drone, a two-way service will be provided to patients.

“Patients can receive emergency ‘O negative’ blood from one of our blood banks via drone. The same drone can then take that patient’s blood sample to the blood bank for comprehensive cross-matching and then safely and rapidly deliver compatible  blood back to the patient,” said Louw.  

The Tron’s cargo compartment is able to securely accommodate even the most fragile payload, up to 2kg and actively cool it.

The Tron will fly at an altitude of 100m to hospitals as far away as 100km delivering up to four units of life saving blood.

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