DRONE technology is moving a lot faster than most people thought possible - and will arrive in our cities even sooner than we can imagine. Perhaps one of the more fundamental changes happening right now is that people are beginning to understand what benefits drones bring for businesses.
A good example is hospital firms - many of whom have several facilities within the same region or city, and frequently need to transport diagnostic or blood samples from one to the other.
The speed and reliability of these deliveries is critical for the health of patients, leading to an ‘Ah-ha!’ moment for some of our clients. Ultimately, lives can be endangered if transfers don’t take place as rapidly as possible. That’s where our technology can play a role - conveying diagnostics samples or drugs more reliably and with less environmental impact than by road.
Since mid-March this year, the main hospital company in the Swiss canton of Ticino has been testing our vehicles to transport lab samples between two of their facilities in the city of Lugano. Following this successful first phase, we announced plans for the first regular service early next year. It will be the first ever commercial deployment of drones in an urban area, operated by our customer Swiss Post and fully approved by the country’s aviation regulators, FOCA.
Delivering medical packages is a perfect task for drones. The payload is light and the speed of the transfer is crucially important - road transport being subject to hold-ups. Hospital staff load the sample in a safety box, place it under the drone, which is then launched with one touch of a smart phone app. Likewise, at the destination the box is autonomously released by the drone, and can be retrieved by another member of staff.
Each package will be carried by a highly manoeuvreable quadrocopter, which can carry a weight of up to two kilograms up to 20 kilometres at a top speed of 36 kilometres per hour (22 mph), flying autonomously along a pre-planned and authorised route before making a precision landing guided by infra-red sensors. In the highly unlikely event of multiple system failure, every drone has a parachute which is automatically released to bring it down safely.
The public acceptance of drones is the next big frontier that must be conquered...