A Team From NUI Galway Created A Drone For Diabetes Patients

Drones have been used for many different purposes since their debut and now scientists have created a drone especially for diabetes patients.
Interesting Engineering
Medical DroneTeeFarm/Pixabay

Since the technology is improving every day, no development in any part of our daily life comes as a surprise anymore. We are all familiar with drones and there have been various uses of drones.

They're used for remote sensing, commercial aerial surveillance, shipping, disaster management and much more. But did you know that drones can also be used for healthcare? And it's getting more and more popular each day. 

There are many places on earth that don't have any access to medical supplies or there may be some conditions that are urgent and need immediate treatment. Drones are mostly used for their convenience and speed and it's obvious that when it comes to the health conditions, being fast saves lives.

A Team From NUI Galway Created A Drone For Diabetes Patients
Source: Pexels/Pixabay

Jeremy D. Tucker says that drones in healthcare will allow more rapid delivery of critical healthcare products such as blood, vaccines and even organs for transplant. Since there is traffic congestion in urban areas and long distances in rural areas, drone delivery can help a lot of people in either of these conditions. 

People who have transportation limitations due to geography such as island inhabitants, elderly patients who can no longer drive, people in rural areas or victims of disasters will all be able to benefit from the drones. 

According to Derek O'Keeffe, drones allow you to deliver lifesaving medical treatments such as insulin and blood to areas that are geographically inaccessible due to local infrastructure or after a severe weather event such as Hurricane Katrina.    

Spyridoula Maraka suggests that drones have the potential to improve healthcare delivery in so many ways such as the delivery of lab samples, medications, vaccines, and emergency medical equipment. She claims that they can be even used for the diagnosis and treatment of patients in remote areas. 

Dr. Maraka Spyridoula
Dr. Spyridoula Maraka/University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Imagine someone is having a heart attack, and you know how important it is to do first aid before the paramedics arrive. Or people who live under poor conditions waiting for a transfusion on the other side of the world. Or maybe a group of people affected by a natural disaster and it's too difficult for paramedics to enter the disaster area because of the harsh conditions.

Should people in these situations be left dead? Absolutely not, and that's where the importance of the drones show up. Medical drones and medical supply distribution by drones are truly essential and it's gaining more and more importance every day.

Also, the utilization of medical drones is increasing and there are serious projects on it. 

For example, Andreas Raptopoulos from Matternet is determined to create a network of drones that can deliver medication and other medical supplies to areas that are inaccessible by any kind of motor vehicle in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Also, in 2014, Zipline was created to help those who need medications immediately. Since then, they have been continuing to create fast and reliable delivery drones and currently, they have 21,137 drones that work for the same purpose.

University of Maryland Medical Center managed to deliver the first organ ever by a drone and the organ was transplanted into a patient with kidney failure successfully. 

A Team From NUI Galway Created A Drone For Diabetes Patients
Source: Pexels/Pixabay

Another example can be the project of Alec Momont from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. He designed a prototype for delivery of defibrillators and these drones will increase the survival rates by 10% in the cardiac arrest cases.

As it can be seen, medical drones have been used for plenty of medical purposes such as delivering essential medical supplies, blood, defibrillators, and human organs for transplant. 

Now, there's a new project with drones for diabetes patients. Both for the Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patients, medications such as insulin are vital. There are 400 million people with diabetes in the world and 200 million use insulin to manage their diabetes. 

If you have diabetes or you know someone with diabetes in your life, you must know how hard it can be to live with diabetes, in some cases, it can even be deadly. Maybe at first glance, it doesn't seem like a serious disease, however; if it's not treated right, it can result in unpleasant circumstances. However, it's hard for some people to have access to insulin. 

NUI Galway brought in something new and carried out the first drone insulin delivery in the world. The delivery was from Connemara Airport in Galway to Inis Mor in the Aran Islands. 

A Team From NUI Galway Created A Drone For Diabetes Patients
Source: NUI Galway/Youtube

Even if the medications and insulin are normally available at the local pharmacies, some events like natural disasters can make it hard for people who live in remote geographic regions to access diabetes medications. The starting point of the project was the diabetes patients who were unable to make it to the clinic during the Storm Ophelia and Storm Emma. 

After these 2 severe events, people with diabetes in the West of Ireland were isolated in their houses due to flooding and snowdrifts for a week. At the time, the only thing to do was to check the weather forecast and assure patients with diabetes, that flooding and snowdrifts would recede by the end of the week.

Those events made Mr. O'Keeffe think of what would happen if there was another severe event that would cause damage which would last even longer. This thought made them create an emergency protocol for diabetes patients to deliver insulin and other medications to them in severe events that may take place in the future.

With the help of Prof. Derek O'Keeffe, NUI Galway succeeded at the drone delivery of diabetes medications. 

A Team From NUI Galway Created A Drone For Diabetes Patients
Prof. Derek O'Keeffe/National University of Ireland, Galway, Source: Diabetes Drone

Since it was the first-ever drone usage for diabetes, there had been some challenges. O'Keeffe claims that this project had 3 challenges - technical, regulatory and clinical.

As diabetes drones will be used in severe conditions, a challenging flightpath from Connemara on the West Coast of Ireland to the Aran Islands, to simulate an extreme environment mission. Thus they had to find a drone that could complete this approximately 40 km round trip in potentially difficult coastal flying conditions.

Also, O'Keeffe and his team wanted this mission to be autonomous and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) and they faced some regulatory challenges to ensure that they properly addressed any drone flight risks. Therefore they had to work closely with their project partners, Survey Drones Ireland and Skytango, to ensure that they prepared a comprehensive Risk Assessment Methods Statement (RAMS). 

A Team From NUI Galway Created A Drone For Diabetes Patients
Prof. Derek O'Keeffe and his team with their drone, Source: Diabetes Drone 

There were also some clinical challenges; they had to comply with the EU regulations around the ordering and dispensing of prescription medications and pharmaceutical/biospecimens transport. 

Furthermore, one of the utilization areas of these drones is when there is a natural disaster and in terms of a natural disaster, a drone needs to VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing). The drone used in this project could indeed VTOL and the advantage of a VTOL drone is that it can still operate in situations where there is no infrastructure.

Even if this was a research flight with some challenges, it's obvious that it was highly effective and in the future medical drones will be highly preferred in the healthcare sector, and without a doubt, medical supply distribution by drones will help a lot and be quite successful.

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