Refrigerated Drones Could Carry Blood and Vaccines

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Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine have developed refrigerated drones that could safely transport medical supplies such as blood, medications, and vaccines.

Dr. Timothy Amukele, a pathologist and researcher with a special interest in solving healthcare issues in remote areas of the globe, has perfected a system of cooling on drones which can keep blood carried in specially refrigerated coolers at the correct temperature during drone delivery.

The Post Bulletin reports that successful test flights had a duration of about 26 minutes and traveled 12 miles.  Solving the problem of refrigeration makes the use of drones to delivery blood supplies or other medical equipment more realistic.  Drone delivery is already used in Rwanda by drone company Zipline to fly medical supplies to remote clinics; Zipline and Flirtey have tested drone delivery for medical supplies in the US.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins published an article last summer on findings that the use of drone delivery in developing countries could increase vaccination rates.

The study, originally published in the journal Vaccine, says that drones provide a very significant cost savings over land-based transportation, which is often limited by terrain, road conditions, and cost-prohibitve fuel and maintenance on land-based vehicles.

“Many low- and middle-income countries are struggling to get lifesaving vaccines to people to keep them from getting sick or dying from preventable diseases,” says senior author Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA, an associate professor at the Bloomberg School and director of operations research at its International Vaccine Access Center. “You make all these vaccines but they’re of no value if we don’t get them to the people who need them. So there is an urgent need to find new, cost-effective ways to do this.”

Amukele’s research on drone refrigeration systems may make drone delivery of vaccines – and other medical supplies requiring temperature control – more immediately practical, saving lives across the globe.

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