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Drones to carry urgent medical samples from French hospitals

Flying patients’ samples to laboratories will speed up diagnosis when every second counts

The drone can carry up to 3kg and will travel at 150km/h, 120 metres high Pic: CH de Valenciennes

A group of hospitals and medical centres is planning to transport medical samples by drone to allow for quicker diagnosis.

Test flights are expected to begin this autumn between the hospitals in Valenciennes and Maubeuge, in northern France, pending the go-ahead from the civil aviation authority.

This will reduce the journey from 45 minutes by car to 25-30 minutes and provide more reliable testing.

Every minute is precious with meningitis diagnosis

The flights, in partnership with French startup Délivrone, will allow blood, urine, stool and cerebrospinal fluid (used to diagnose meningitis) samples to be sent between the GCS SHAB laboratory’s sites for analysis.

Pierre Houssin, who is leading the project, said: “With meningitis, for example, every minute is precious. We try to scrape as many minutes as possible off the wait for results. 

“That is why we are always on the lookout for new technologies.”

Read more: 16 things you can do at a French pharmacy other than buy aspirin

Drones travel at 150km/h

The drones will also allow the laboratory to save money and reduce carbon emissions by up to 99%. 

They can carry up to 3kg and will travel at 150km/h, 120 metres high.

They will be able to take off directly from Maubeuge hospital, but can only land near Valenciennes hospital, with a smaller drone or bike finishing the journey, as the area is too densely populated.

The aim is to have the air link operational next year.

If the Air Shab project is a success, it could eventually serve the laboratory’s four other sites in the region, in Divion, Liévin, Hénin Beaumont and Denain.

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