Switzerland Is Deploying A Fleet Of Medical Delivery Drones
A new drone delivery network from Matternet is being implemented in Switzerland to transport urgently needed medical supplies between hospitals
Hospitals rely on quick reactions to serve patients in need of immediate medical attention. This also means deliveries between hospitals have to happen fast if one facility has a specific blood type or a medical sample that another needs. Because hospitals are often situated in the middle of cities, these deliveries can get stuck in traffic. To make this process faster, Switzerland hospitals enlisted the help of Matternet, a Silicon Valley tech company, to create a drone delivery network.
The drones in this network deliver medical supplies between hospitals, avoiding the car traffic with which a normal delivery would have to contend. Lugano was the first city in Switzerland to test these drones back in March.
With the drone system in place a medical professional can send a sample to a neighboring hospital by using a mobile app to submit a request to the drone’s system. While the request gets accepted, the sample is locked into a protection box designed to contain biohazardous materials with a QR code on the top. The QR code is scanned and attached to the request. With this part finished, the medical professional places the container on the drone’s sending platform, which measures six by four square feet. The cloud system takes over a majority of the heavy lifting.
The platform holds onto the container until it can either request a drone from the flying fleet to accept the new delivery or grab one that is already docked. When the drone arrives to the new hospital with the delivery, an employee receives a notification about it and brings it to where it needs to go. Upon landing, the drone receives a new battery to ensure it never dies while in transit. Matternet noted this system could save lives, as a vehicle delivery that takes 25 minutes could take a drone around three to complete.
Matternet manufactured all of the drones used in the fleet. The company also created the cloud system programmed in the drones’ sending and receiving platforms, making it an autonomous operation for the drones to load up a delivery, launch to the next platform and drop off the supplies. The Switzerland hospitals were able to partner with the country’s postal service, the Swiss Post, to assist in managing the system.
The first finalized Matternet station was unveiled on September 20. Matternet plans to start rolling out additional stations by the end of this year.