CIT student James hopes blood delivery drones take off

A major breakthrough in how to tackle health service emergencies could literally be about to fly onto the HSE’s radar as a result of an innovative research project by a quick-thinking college student.

 CIT student James King, of Carrigaline, Co Cork, who was the winner in the 2014 Engineers Ireland Level 8 Innovative Student Engineer of the Year Awards, for his medi-pod, which is designed to transport blood over long distances. Picture: Naoise Culhane

In a bid to speed up the reaction to road-side emergencies, Cork Institute of Technology student James King has developed a way to bring blood and organs to the site of crashes by using small unmanned air vehicle known as drones.

The device, which saw the Carrigaline native win first prize at the Engineers Ireland Level 8 Student Engineer of the Year awards, is currently awaiting Irish Medicines Board approval before it can be used in Irish skies.

However, if the project receives approval for take-off, it could help to drastically cut transport times for potentially life-saving items like blood and organs, which would otherwise have to be brought by ambulance.

“My father’s in the ambulance service and we had a chat one evening over transporting blood in the ambulance service and how it just eats up a lot of time with traffic and not getting there on time,” Mr King told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland programme, when asked how the idea emerged.

“The medi-pod is an attachment that allows you to transport blood over long distances.

“It’s basically a small carbon fibre pod which cools itself to the right temperature for blood and attaches under the wings of a drone to allow safe flight.

“It’s been wind-tunnel tested and I’m just waiting for a drone to put it in the air now.”

While the project itself may seem far-fetched, for more than a decade smaller 5kg drones — whose larger versions are known for their use in war zones by the US military — have been shown to be able to travel 3,000km in just two days. Mr King’s prototype would not be expected to travel anywhere near the same distance.

However, it could prove invaluable to ensuring vital medical items make it to their destination on time.

The CIT student was one of a number of young engineers to be rewarded for their innovative ideas at the Engineers Ireland awards at the weekend.

Among other winners were Ruiari McGee, Anthony Mannion, Gary Lyons, and Niall McHale, who, as a group from Sligo Institute of Technology, devised a way to lower the cost of stem willow harvesting and make it more efficient as a renewable energy source.

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