Swiss Post Drone Flies Lab Samples
Since mid-March, Swiss Post, the Ticino EOC hospital group, and drone manufacturer Matternet have been successfully conducting initial drone flights in Lugano. In the future, modern delivery drones will transport laboratory samples between two EOC hospitals.
The Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) has given the project the green light. The idea of a drone taking care of the exchange of laboratory samples in a city is a first in Switzerland – and also means that Swiss Post is playing a pioneering role in drone logistics worldwide.
In mid-March 2017, Swiss Post, the Ticino EOC hospital group, and drone manufacturer Matternet launched a joint innovation project: they plan to use modern delivery drones to transport laboratory samples autonomously between two EOC hospitals in Lugano – the Ospedale Italiano and the Ospedale Civico. The samples are currently transported by road. The use of drones will make transport faster and more efficient in order to further enhance the provision of care to patients.
Since mid-March, there have been around 70 autonomous test flights between the two hospital locations. The Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) has been involved in the project from the outset: it has inspected the drone and its safety components, defined the legal conditions for flying it, and now granted Swiss Post and Matternet approval for the flights. The partners carried out further test flights until April 4, at which point an initial evaluation is taking place. Further testing with flights is planned over a one-month period in summer 2017.
As soon as the drone meets all of the strict requirements regarding safety, practicality and reliability, the regular use of drones between the two hospitals will become an everyday occurrence. This is expected to be achieved by 2018. From then on, trained hospital staff will be able to load the drone independently with a safety box (in which the lab samples are packaged) and launch the drone with a smartphone application. The drone will then fly autonomously along the predefined route to its destination, where the box will be received by another member of staff.
The logistics drone in use in Lugano is equipped with the latest technology, a quadrocopter from the American manufacturer Matternet. The drone is compact at 80 cm in diameter (without rotor blades), specializes in the transport of light goods weighing up to two kilograms, has a maximum range of 20 kilometers and flies at an average speed of 10 meters per second.
In the event of the failure of electronics, a parachute would be released automatically. A landing pad that transmits an infrared signal is used at the take-off and landing points. During its approach, the drone can detect this signal to ensure a pinpoint landing.
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