European hospitals are testing drones to speed up the delivery of human tissue

Belgian hospitals have started testing a drone to save time when delivering human tissue samples in city centers, between patients on the operating table and medical laboratories, a first in Europe.

On Tuesday, a drone piloted by a private entrepreneur took off from an Antwerp building of the ZNA hospital group and traveled 800 meters to land on the roof of the Sint-Augustus site of the GZA group.

Beneath the quadcopter was a sterile vial containing human tissue samples to be tested for cancer cells. The first test flight was followed by four more.

The private company Helicus is the only company in Europe to have obtained a license to use unmanned aircraft for medical purposes, over cities and with a remote pilot out of sight.

The drone itself is made by Belgian firm SABCA, and Helicus hopes to have developed a commercial operation with regular flights by 2024.

Testing is underway, but the European Union is expected to pass new rules next year that could see medical flights allowed across the 27-member bloc.

Michael Shamim, chief executive of Helicus, told AFP that hospitals save costs by centralizing testing labs, but then find themselves further away from patients.

“You need a fast logistics system. And that’s where drones come in,” he said.

Drones are unaffected by traffic slowdowns and road closures, so their direct routes between medical facilities are often faster but also more predictable.

The two large hospital groups in Antwerp, ZNA and GZA, process 1,200 tissue samples taken during surgery each year, and these often have to be analyzed quickly to decide on the course of the operation.

Currently, samples are transported to the city’s four laboratories by road, sometimes by taxi.

“When removing a tumor, the surgeon tries to spare the surrounding tissue as much as possible,” explains pathologist Sabine Declercq.

“But to make sure the tumor has been completely removed, samples are sent to the lab during the procedure and results should come in within thirty minutes.”

For now, only samples for analysis such as human tissue and urine are transported by drones, but Helicus hopes to one day deliver blood transfusions and donor organs directly to patients.

Emergency Response Drones to Save Lives in the Digital Sky

© 2022 AFP

Quote: European Hospitals Test Drones to Accelerate Human Tissue Delivery (2022, Aug 24) Retrieved August 24, 2022 from html

This document is subject to copyright. Except for fair use for purposes of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for information only.

Comments are closed.