Medical Drones Market
Global Industry Analysis (2018 – 2022), Growth Trends and Market Forecast (2022 – 2026)
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Potential of Drones in Health Care and Services
With their speed and manoeuvrability, drones have long captured attention for their potential to deliver shopping orders and photograph the world from above. But the machines can also serve a medical purpose by shuttling drugs, defibrillators and other equipment to emergency sites or care facilities, and increase the victim's chances of survival.
As technology continues to adapt and evolve, healthcare professionals explore unique ways to deliver more effective care. The use of drones for medical purposes brings many advantages, such as quick help, shortening the time of traveling to the patient, reduction of complications in the injured owing to a short time to wait for rescue, support and improvement of basic operations of medical emergency teams, and the opportunity to reach geographically inaccessible places for basic means of medical transport.
For improved efficiency, last mile delivery systems like inter-hospital drones have observed rapid deployments with technologies being designed to make systems time efficient. Improvements in battery life, GPS navigation and artificial intelligence functions are making drones a more practical option in healthcare
Distance has become Meaningless. In fact, Geography has become History!
Today DRONES are increasingly being used in healthcare to reach the unreached and make isolation, relative not absolute. Challenging terrain and gaps in infrastructure holds back half the world from accessing essential health products and services.
Potential applications of UAVs in healthcare are broad based. They include
(1) Prehospital Emergency Care,
(2) Expediting Laboratory Diagnostic Testing,
Currently, UAVs have been shown to deliver vaccines, haematological products and automated external defibrillators. In addition, they are being used in the identification of mosquito habitats and drowning victims at beaches as a public health surveillance modality.
Deliveries between Hospitals
A first step in the use of medical drones is likely to be deliveries between hospitals. The treatment of patients often requires the transfer of test samples or the delivery of medical supplies that may not be in stock everywhere. Such transfers could also take place between small regional hospitals with limited supplies and large health centers. The rapid transfer of samples to labs that are equipped to perform the required tests and the return of corresponding medication could save lives.
Drone transfers between hospitals are comparatively simple because the take-off and landing sites are known and the route can be programmed. Also, time saved in a trip across a city with heavy traffic or from downtown to a remote regional health facility can be substantial and the cost would be low.
- Two hospitals in Switzerland started using drones to deliver blood samples and other analysis material. This is the first case of a commercial application of UAVs for medical purposes, giving hope for saving lives
- Another Polish project, called AirVein, assumes the creation of a system that will help hospitals and Regional Centres of Blood Donation and Blood Treatment in a quicker exchange of blood. The goal is to create a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, terrestrial infrastructure equipped with a hybrid navigation system, modules for storing and moving blood while maintaining the required parameters, and an information technology system coordinating the delivery
Deliveries to Accident and Disaster Relief Sites
Speed and versatility of UAV technology offers virtually unlimited opportunities to deliver needed medical supplies and assistance to individuals in remote or dangerous areas. They can even connect doctors to patients in a more expeditious manner. Victims of natural disasters or emergency situations could be administered life-saving care by good-Samaritan bystanders who are provided remote instruction on treatment administration - arrival of life saving supplies can provide passers-by with the ability to respond quickly while the emergency vehicle is en route.
- A recent article in IEEE Spectrum covered the story of a race between a drone equipped with first aid supplied and an ambulance. The drone won. The technology is designed to get lifesaving medical supplies to patients as quickly as possible
- The journal Sensor describes that the drone system successfully reached every fake test patient in a busy city in northern Iraq, and arrived 90 to 120 seconds faster than an ambulance
Delivering Medical Cargo by Drone
- The Polish Air Force Institute of Technology created a drone called AtraxM, designed to support rescue operations and air transport. The drone can perfectly identify the place of the accident, the number of victims, and the scale of the event before the arrival of emergency services. For medical purposes, AtraxM has been equipped with replaceable trays for transferring first aid kits containing basic dressing materials, life-saving shock-recovery kits (when there is a person entitled to administer medicines like a doctor or nurse at the place of the event), medicines directly prepared for the patient’s need for immediate administration (e.g., ampoules with adrenaline and insulin) when symptoms are known and a quick reaction is required, medicines for people living in areas affected by natural disasters, e.g., floods, and blood bags
- The institute is working on the development of AtraxM; the goal is to include a container for the first diagnosis with such medical devices as ECG, glucometer, devices for measuring blood pressure and temperature (optional), with data sent directly to the rescuer-dispatcher, who will give further instructions on how to proceed; and an automated external defibrillator for safe defibrillation in the event of cardiac arrest and a container with an oxygen concentrator or nebulizer for quick reaction in situations of respiratory failure
- UNC School of Nursing, has been exploring the use of drones in healthcare as delivery vehicles for automated external defibrillators (AEDs)
- Every service provider wanting to deploy drones needs to overcome challenges ranging from payload capacity, safety, battery life and regulations. Flight paths need to be provided and drones managed to ensure that the right package is transported in right conditions at the right temperature to the right location.
- Inclement weather conditions or differences in ambient temperatures may cause drones to lose their functionality. Cost of building and maintaining drones needs to be carefully reviewed so that a cost-benefit analysis could be done.
- Regulatory, legal and environmental issues - Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)/ EU Regulations 2019/947 and 2019/945, INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION ORGANIZATION (ICAO) Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) rules and not the tech itself will decide what drones can accomplish. The presence of a drone in a place not intended for - an appearance in the controlled space is an issue identified worldwide as affecting aviation safety.
Favourable Government Initiatives
- May 2018, The FAA Relaxes Drone Restrictions With 10 New Programs
- October 2017, President Trump Moves to Fill America's Skies with Drones
- The EU-funded, international ResponDrone Project
- The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, India has given its go-ahead for a pilot project of the Telangana government which aims to deliver medical supplies using drones
Drones have proven their versatility during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to delivering medical supplies, the technology is also being used to disinfect cities in Philippines, India, Ghana, Nigeria, and observe and enforce lockdown rules in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Tunisia, among others.
Mobile for Drone Delivery Development
GSMA created a Drone Interest Group (DIG) to support drone operation through cellular connectivity. How to incorporate drones into airspace and how to use the mobile network as a communication channel for aviation usage.
GSMA and the Global UTM Association (GUTMA) has set up a joint drone working group, the Aerial Connectivity Joint Activity (ACJA). Unlock the full potential of drones by allowing them to operate beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight.
Companies Delivering Medical Supplies through Drones
Axiomtek Medical, Dunzo Digital, EHang, Flirtey, Flytrex, Google Drones, Healthcare Integrated Rescue Operations (HiRO), Matter Net, Project Wing, Swoop Aero, TU Delft, UPS Flight Forward, Vayu Drones, WeRobotics, Wingcopter, XTEND, ZipLine.