The following is an excerpt from an article by William Steel for Cleanleap
In just a short space of time the market for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has grown immensely. Leaving aside military UAVs, that smaller varieties of consumer grade UAV have become an affordable product has opened up countless avenues for their application.
We’re not just talking about providing YouTube with jaw-dropping videos of beautiful landscapes. Those hold value to be sure, but there are many, far more consequential applications of UAVs emerging in humanitarian endeavours.
By virtue of their highly flexible nature, UAVs can provide immense and unique capabilities; ones significant across a wide range of contexts, be it in agricultural (see, CleanLeap ‘Unmanned Agriculture’), energy, or other industrial sectors.
That UAVs can fly brings immediate advantages in terms of how they may travel, and the locations they can reach — often surpassing what’s possible with conventional means of transport. Meanwhile, refinements in computer systems has led to advanced navigation and control systems being embedded within UAV systems — a development that’s been crucial in enabling UAV services to function effectively. With improvements in performance, even consumer grade UAVs are able to carry and deliver small packages over considerable distances.
Altogether these capabilities are converging into a growing niche: UAV-based medical delivery services.
A key obstacle to improving medical services in developing regions is access. With underdeveloped transport infrastructure and vast distances to remote communities, even the relatively simple act of getting medicine to a patient can become a significant challenge. The so-called ‘last-mile’ of supply chains is invariably the hardest; but it’s doubly so in the case of distribution in developing regions.
UAV-based delivery of medical supplies represents a game-changing approach to promoting healthcare in regions — remote and/or under-developed — where such barriers to rapid delivery exist.
The application of the technology, now widely trialled and shown to be highly promising, is set to expand over the coming years in a paradigm-shifting approach to transport.
This is a global effort being supported from a number of angles. While a growing number of start-ups are advancing the concept and developing UAV delivery systems, healthcare non-governmental organisations are playing a vital role as well — providing the necessary medical expertise to ensure systems are deployed in effective manners. We also see several governments embracing the technology too — providing all important permission to trial and deploy UAV delivery systems.
In this article, we consider a few promising examples of UAV-based medical services, and highlight how they’re contributing to this emerging field of healthcare.
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