Blood supplies, especially platelets and plasma, are vital for taking care of injured people. But blood comes with an expiration date. Certain parts of it, like platelets and plasma, survive for less than a week after they’ve been donated, and even red blood cells only last up to six weeks in storage. In the future, drones could help transport vital blood supplies to where they need to be, saving time and lives, according to a post by the Mayo Clinic.
Delivery drones, while still a nascent field, are at their best when carrying small cargoes across short distances. There are the obvious rescue situations, where drones launched from a base camp could get supplies to injured hikers more easily than a helicopter. But there’s also the logistical benefit to delivery drones. In December of 2013, shipping company DHL used a drone to carry medical supplies across the Rhine River. While very much a publicity stunt, it demonstrates one task drones can do very well: carry supplies on routes that cars simply can’t take, thus shortening the time, perhaps, between a hospital with enough platelets and one running low. This is where the Mayo Clinic sees drones playing a role in the future:
Large regional hospitals receive daily shipments of blood. Smaller hospitals receive blood weekly and count on larger centers or regional blood banks to restock their supply between shipments. Instead of courier services or the highway patrol transporting blood to a hospital that needs it, a UAV could deliver the blood in advance, taking off as soon as the EMS call comes in.
Drones could also deliver expensive and rarely used drugs, such as antivenin for snake bites, as well as help meet the demand for blood products in the prehospital setting quickly and inexpensively.
“Our advanced transport team makes about 2,000 [helicopter] flights a year and in 2013 they transfused 200 units of packed red blood cells and 200 units of plasma to critically injured and ill patients during transport,” [surgeon Cornelius]Thiels says. “How to best manage critically ill patients in the prehospital environment is a field we are actively researching. UAVs could potentially play a role in improving outcomes for these patients in the future.”
(Read more from “Drones Could Carry Blood to Critically Injured Patients” HERE)