Blood services' drone initiative not given its wings yet by aviation authority

2019-08-03 20:18
The TRON UAV takes flight in Sandton. (Chante Schatz, Video24)

The TRON UAV takes flight in Sandton. (Chante Schatz, Video24)

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An initiative by the South African National Blood Services (SANBS), which could save many lives, has not got off the ground yet. 

The SANBS wanted to enhance its services by delivering blood with the use of drones.

However the South African Civil Aviation Authority told News24 on Friday the initiative has still not been approved.

"The SACAA at this stage has not approved any application from the SANBS to use drones to transport blood," SACAA spokesperson  Pappie Maja said.

If approved, the technology will ensure that emergency blood is made accessible to those in remote areas.

"With Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) approval, SANBS plan on piloting the delivery of blood via Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV’s), between 2 of SANBS sites, i.e. Kopanong Blood Bank and Sebogeng Hospital, once CAA is happy with the data collected, this programme will be rolled out to other rural areas across South Africa," SANBS spokesperson Nomfundo Dhlamini told News24.

"This is the reason for Blood Delivery via UAV in South Africa. SANBS want to ensure blood gets timeously delivered to patients in rural areas or areas that have issues with transport logistics within what is deemed to be the golden hour," she added.

The UAV in question is managed and designed by by a German Based company named Quantum Systems. It can be piloted manually or autonomously.

"This is an Electric VTOL (Vertical, Take Off and Land) UAV, capable of flying a distance of 90 km. The UAV can carry a payload of 2 kilograms which is equivalent to carrying four units of blood. The UAV is called TRON and weighs 13.5kgs, with a wingspan of 3.5m," Dhlamini added.

ALSO READ: WATCH: Emergency blood could soon be transported by drone in South Africa

The TRON will be used in two ways logistically: to deliver as well as to collect blood banks.

"The SANBS UAV can land to collect a blood sample from the hospital and take it back to the blood bank for cross matching which will ensure that compatible blood is dispatched back to the patient. In an emergency, the universal blood type, O Negative, can be dispatched while cross matching functions take place in the meantime," Dhlamini further explained.

Once approved, the initiative will be a first for South Africa. 

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Read more on:    sanbs  |  blood donation  |  drone
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