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Blue-sky thinking: transforming healthcare logistics with 5G Drones

19 Jul 2022
Michael Reinartz

Michael Reinartz

Head of Innovation, Vodafone Germany

Growing up, you might have heard the fanciful tale of storks delivering babies – but what if 5G connectivity could be used to bring this tale to life? However, not exactly by transporting new-borns.

The University Hospital Düsseldorf, Europe’s first 5G hospital, currently relies on innovative logistical solutions to ensure medicines are in place when and where they are needed. This is essential in such a complex environment which constantly pivots between routine and emergency situations.

One such solution utilizes a pneumatic tube system which delivers medicines, medical records, and blood samples throughout a 40-hectare site by propelling cylinder containers through a complex network of tubes via compressed air or vacuum.

Whilst effective and more efficient than human couriers, complex and cost-intensive construction measures prevent this system being extended to further buildings, such as the children’s hospital.

That’s where we come in.

Courier service of the skies

In a successful first trial, our 5G-connected drones were used to deliver a nutritional package for babies born prematurely, from the hospital’s central pharmacy, to the roof of the children’s hospital.

In record time too – the drone was able to transport the goods across 450 metres within 40 seconds.

Whilst the initial test flight was monitored, the speed and low latency of 5G connectivity means that high-speed deliveries of critical medical supplies would already be possible autonomously and without any human intervention.

5G also enables close to real-time transmission of a drone’s position data, which also ensures air-traffic safety, even at high speeds.

The sky’s the limit

Just by swapping out what’s in the package, 5G-connected drones can be the fastest and safest answer to many of a hospital’s everyday logistical challenges.

Moreover, wherever 5G goes, drones can follow. Rural communities have also benefitted from drones being used in the healthcare industry, from the delivery of coronavirus supplies, to emergency search and rescue operations.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The low latency of 5G also equips drones to tackle more than just logistical challenges, aiding data-driven agricultural operations in the Netherlands, or giving UK companies the upper hand in ensuring their air traffic security.

Drones are primed to shape solutions of the future, with more industries frequently adopting drones across Western Europe. By 2025, almost 1.5 million networked drones could fly through Western European airspace, and this could rise to as many as 4.3 million by 2030[1] – with 5G being the cornerstone of it all.

Transforming healthcare is just one way we are using our connectivity for good. Find out what 5G could do for your business.

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