Researchers at NUI Galway have made aviation history by using drone technology to deliver diabetes medication to the Aran Islands and collect a patient's blood sample from there.
The 18km test flight, from Connemara Airport to the airstrip on Inis Mór, took around 15 minutes to complete.
Described as the world's first "autonomous beyond visual line of sight drone delivery" of insulin, the flight required special permission from the Irish Aviation Authority. It took place between commercial flights to the island and involved dispatching the insulin in specially designed packaging which was placed in a small parcel box on the drone. Operators on both air facilities were able to monitor the craft's progress throughout the journey.
It is hoped that the delivery can be used as the starting point for formulating more extensive drone dispatches to remote locations.
Project lead, Professor Derek O’Keeffe, professor of medical device technology, NUI Galway and consultant physician at Galway University Hospitals, said:
Individuals and communities in rural locations can become isolated for days after a severe weather event and an emergency may arise where patients can run out of their medicine.
"Therefore, it is incumbent on us to develop a solution for these emergencies. This #DiabetesDrone project represents another milestone in the use of drones to improve patient care.”
As well as researchers from the university, a range of medical, logistical and technical experts were involved in the project.
The drone was launched from Connemara Airport using a combination of software - one for the pre-flight check list and one for the mission flight.
The drone was connected via Vodafone Ireland’s IoT network and it flew a pre-planned flight path using Q Ground Control software.