​Emergencies where every second counts, to ensure that help arrives on site, are not bound to easily accessible places. This is exactly where drones can offer a decisive advantage to deliver a critical time advantage.

The South Africa National Blood Service (SANBS) was looking for a carrier platform to transport blood from SANBS sites to hospitals for exactly this scenario. The Tron F9 from Quantum-Systems was the preferred choice. With a 2.0 kg payload and a range of 100 km+, it offers enough reserves to transport up to 4 units of blood in time with active temperature cooling and monitoring.

The following interview with Amit Singh from SANBS provides insight into Project #BloodWing. The initial article about this project can be found here.

What is the mission of SANBS?

To reliably provide trusted blood products and services to all patients at a world class level of cost and quality while innovating new treatment to enhance human healthcare.

What are you doing at SANBS?

I am the Project Lead and Head of Drone Operations (ICT Service Delivery Manager aswell).

how can UAVs help SANBS to succeed?

When a patient requires blood in an emergency, time is of utmost importance and I believe UAVs will address this. Prompt delivery of blood and blood products to our patients, utilizing UAVs, especially in rural areas, where traditional transport systems cannot get to or takes too long to reach its final destination.

Bloodwing Custom Payload

Enough space and payload in the CG (center of gravity) of the Tron for a maximum of 4 blood transfusions – safely stored and cooled for a quick delivery

Why did you go for Quantum-Systems?

We (The Drone Task Team) investigated a number of #UAV options in the market (locally and internationally), against the following criteria:

1.  Speed
2.  2 Way logistics
3.  Range – min 100KM flight distance
4.  Safety
5.  Security of UAV (Datalinks)
6.  Payload (min 2 KGs which is equivalent to 4 units of blood)
7.  Payload to be in CG
8.  Active Monitoring and Temperature Control of cargo (blood and blood products)
9.  G Forces on cargo (blood and blood products)
10. Electric VTOL (SANBS is supportive of going ‘Green” (environmentally friendly)
11. Ease of use for Mission Planning

Based on these criteria, the TRON designed by Quantum Systems was the UAV of choice.

The Tron convinced with its capabilities as a versatile UAV system.

How did the partnership progress?

The partnership has been very positive. The advice, guidance and collaboration has paved the way to where we are and what the future may look like.

Florian and his team believes in the goodness of this project (#Drones4Good) and that is evident by the time and effort the team has given and not to mention the number of work packages provided at no cost to SANBS (being an NPO, this goes a long way). Our interaction (SANBS and QS teams) over the past year has been amazing, you would think we knew each other for years. I have not been disappointed to date, we have had our disagreements but at the end of the day, we did what was in SANBS’s best interest.  I believe it is healthy to have disagreements and to challenge each other, this builds mature partnerships. To have UAV partner that agrees to everything is probably a recipe for disaster and would have huge cost implications.

(Vincent, Amit and Jakob after a project meeting. Vincent and Jakob developed the cooling system and the monitoring of the payload

 

How did the Tron benefit your work?

The final product is the Tron, it does not get any better. The first time I saw this UAV,I was enthusiastic about the possibilities and already existing features. There have been some additions, with the active cooling and monitoring of the cargo bay to accommodate the blood packages.

100km operating radius at the push of a button

Especially in difficult to access, rural areas, UAVs can provide the crucial time advantage.

What do you wish for the future regarding UAVs in transportational use cases?

I would like to see more clearer guidance from the relevant regulators (Transport and Logistics industry) about drone use. I believe this will make things easier for the relevant CAA’s. Maybe the introduction of a drone regulator this to assist on only for transportation use cases, but for the use of Drones. I think we need to work on this one in the future.

What would you recommend to professionals who think about adding a UAV to their quiver of instruments?

Know the laws and regulations about the use case prior to choosing a UAV. Choose the right partner and UAV that is suited for your needs, don’t rush into making this decision. So basically apart from the CAA rules and regulations, there would be certain things from a medical and transportation perspective that one would need abide to for the transportation of Blood.

Everyone wants to be the first but it would be beneficial for more collaborative approaches but I suppose it’s easy for me to want this as I work for an NPO. The more we work together, the better it will be for the industry and save on costs. I would like to see more being done for #Drones4Good.

What will SANBS look like in 10 years? What is your vision and what role will drones play in it?

It a tough one, UAV’s is a part of what SANBS does but UAV’s will become part of our current logistics, I don’t see our fleet of vehicles being replaced, not in the next 10 years.

My vision for the Blood Service will be, that , wherever and whenever there is a request for blood, our UAV’s will ensure that the blood is delivered timeously for the people of South Africa. To also see what we have done being rolled out in Africa and internationally. What we are doing can be used in many industries and not limited to delivery of blood or blood products only.

It would be my dream to start an organization or an entity that is focused on Drones4Good (UN … hint .. hint). To see a group of companies and individuals from all over the world, working together on a #Drones4Good campaign, would be amazing. A true Drones4Good campaign would be in the best interest of serving humanity, and who would not want to be part of that.

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