5G-connected drones have been used to transport nutrition solutions for premature babies for the first time, in a successful trial at University Hospital Düsseldorf (UKD).
Each morning, staff in the central pharmacy at UKD prepare parenteral nutrient solutions for premature babies in care of the children’s ward. Such medication would normally be transported across the 40-hectare hospital site through a pneumatic tube system. However, the system is not accessible from the children’s ward due to the complexity and expense involved in expanding it to new buildings. This means pharmacy staff must rely on the hospital courier service, which is slower and less efficient.
Staff at UKD normally use a pneumatic tube system to transport medication across the hospital
Vodafone has been working with the hospital to find new, innovative solutions to improve medicine delivery services across the hospital. In a recent test flight, a 5G-connected drone successfully delivered a nutritional package to the children’s ward from the central pharmacy. The drone covered the 450-metre distance in less than 40 seconds.
While the test flight was monitored by humans, the speed and low-latency of 5G connectivity means similar flights could be completed autonomously, without manual control. Through 5G, a drone can transmit data on its air position in real-time. This is a key factor in enabling safer autonomous flights and air traffic.
Dr Christina Westhoff, head of the central pharmacy at UKD said: “Our aim, where possible and sensible, is to test the automation of routine processes in order to enable reliable, fast and prioritised transport by air in the future.”
Medical deliveries by connected drones could be more commonplace in future. In a UK trial last year, drones were used to transport medical supplies including Covid-19 testing kits between NHS hospitals and facilities in a remote part of western Scotland.
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