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Drones improve patient care

LaborBerlin testing laboratory handles over six million samples annually. They are transported by lorry, bicycle messenger, taxi, pneumatic tube and via an internal rail network. In order to reduce transportation times and costs, RISE is collaborating with LaborBerlin and the Technical University of Berlin to develop a method that uses drones as a delivery method.

Located a few kilometres from the Brandenburg Gate in central Berlin, LaborBerlin is Europe’s largest hospital laboratory. The laboratory is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and accepts approximately 18,000 samples each day. Emergency tests take between 38 and 60 minutes from arrival to completed analysis, making transport times a critical part of the chain.

“Transport is perceived as being slow, inefficient and expensive,” says Rasmus Lundqvist of RISE. “We intend to remedy this with the help of drones.”

Rasmus works at RISE’s Autonomous Systems Department in Linköping. In collaboration with colleagues from RISE and researchers at the Technical University of Berlin, he is developing a solution through which drones can efficiently deliver samples and act as a complement to existing transport methods.

“There are many challenges associated with transporting samples using drones,” explains Rasmus. “To begin with the technical, we need to develop a drone adapted to the purpose; one that can be controlled beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). We also need to resolve business and legal issues; how do we obtain a financially attractive solution? How can we ensure that applications meet legislative requirements for safety? We are working on these types of issues in parallel with technical development.”

Testing at the RISE testbed in Västervik

Throughout its development, the BVLOS system has been tested at the RISE drone testing facility in Västervik. At 2,400 km2, the facility is the largest of its kind in Europe and provides a secure infrastructure for research, testing, certification, training, marketing and delivery controls of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The objective of the project, which is expected to be complete in December 2018, is to establish a fleet of autonomous drones to make regular deliveries to LaborBerlin as an integrated element of the sample-testing logistics chain.

“Of course, our ultimate aim is to improve patient safety by using modern technology and innovative solutions to streamline transportation,” says Rasmus Lindqvist. “The drone solution also means that we will be able to switch to electric transport, which will naturally both benefit the environment and contribute to a more sustainable city.”

Published: 2018-10-15