Drones a Safe Way to Transport Blood: Study

Finding means they could be used to supply accident sites, natural disasters, rural areas

Drone carries cooler with blood products. Photo: Johns Hopkins Medicine

FRIDAY, Dec. 9, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Blood products don't seem to suffer damage when transported by drones, researchers report.

The findings lend support to advocates who say that drones could offer a safe, effective and fast way to deliver blood products to accident sites, natural disasters or remote locations.

"My vision is that, in the future, when a first responder arrives to the scene of an accident, he or she can test the victim's blood type right on the spot and send for a drone to bring the correct blood product," study first author Dr. Timothy Amukele said in a Johns Hopkins University news release. He is an assistant professor of pathology at the university's School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Amukele and his Hopkins colleagues placed large bags of blood products -- the size used for transfusion -- into a cooler loaded on a drone that was flown 8 to 12 miles at about 328 feet off the ground. Flight time was just over 26 minutes.

There were different test flights for three types of blood products: red blood cells, platelets and plasma units. Wet ice, pre-calibrated thermal packs and dry ice were used to keep each type of blood product cool, respectively.

Tests showed that the blood products maintained proper temperature and cellular integrity during transport on the drone, the researchers said.

The study was published online Dec. 7 in the journal Transfusion.

The study authors plan more and larger studies in the United States and other countries, and want to test methods of active cooling, such as programming a cooler to maintain a specific temperature.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on blood transfusion.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University, news release, Dec. 7, 2016

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