From Drone racing to the destruction of landmines or even catching a Pokemon, there is nothing these UAVs cannot do. The medical specialists from the Stony Brook University Medicine have used the unguided aerial vehicles to bring health care to a remote village in Madagascar.
The research team uses a drone to access the inaccessible villages that are not even linked by roads. The doctors use the drones to supply necessary, life-saving medicines to the villages or to collect biological samples for lab analysis. The drone delivers or picks up the packages at a central medical centre.
A drone can fly to and from the main centre in an hour while the same journey takes more than 10 hours each way on foot. Dr. Peter Small is a professor of Global Health at the Stony Brook University Medicine. He led the partnership between the public health professionals and Vayu Inc., a drone startup. The wanted to send out a drone on the world’s first autonomous, long-distance UAV flight to pick up the blood samples collected by a health field worker.
The drone took off from the central research facility and landed in the rural medical centre. The health worker loaded the drone with the blood samples, and the UAV returned to the central facility. The samples picked up by the drone were real blood samples. Despite the fact that this test flight was configured only for a one stop round trip, the researchers hope to improve the design and battery life and come up with a UAV that can fly from one spot to another.
Albeit the crushing need to supply drugs and provide medical healthcare in far off villages, Dr. Small had to obtain permission from three ministers in Madagascar who expressed their concerns about the unmanned aircraft swishing through their air.
The drone needed for this operation had to meet certain specifications like flight time/range and loading capacity. Vayu met these requirements, and the drone that completed the first flight successfully is the size of a small picnic table. The fix-winged drone can fly as far as 64 kilometres and can land or take off vertically. Then the villagers had to be educated about the drone to build their trust.
Dr. Small is extremely proud of this accomplishment:
“It’s easy to say one could or will fly, but we actually did!”
Next, the researchers are planning to use these drones to monitor the spread of diseases or to keep an eye on the emerging health issues.