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Interview: medical drone expert, Dr. Jeremy Tucker

Drone Advice chats with global medical drone expert, Dr. Jeremy Tucker, about how drones are helping reshape the healthcare industry. Dr. Tucker also gives us a preview of the World’s first real IOT smart mailbox system from AirBox Technologies®.

DroneAdvice: When did you first realise the potential for drones to be used in the health industry?

Dr. Tucker: The day after Amazon announced they were going to deliver packages by drone back in December 2013, it became very obvious to me that we would use drones in healthcare. I wrote a blog about the many potential use cases that same month and everything kind of took off.

Healthcare is very complex and not only do we need to securely move and share data but we need to move supplies, equipment, specimens, vaccines and blood products. Automation, whether through drones, robots or even artificial intelligence, will help the elderly maintain independence much longer than in the past.

Photo by Cristian Newman from Unsplash

DroneAdvice: As the global medical drone expert, what in your view are the three most compelling use-cases for drones in the health industry?

Dr. Tucker: Getting aid to those who need it quickly will probably cover all three of these. First, rapid defibrillator delivery to a cardiac arrest victim will help save more lives. Why do you think they are all over airports, malls and schools? Unfortunately, people collapse virtually anywhere and if a drone AED can be summoned in a couple minutes, this may save a life. In fact, this was studied in Sweden and the findings were published in JAMA.

Blood product delivery is of course already being done in Rwanda. This would also be pretty important to save lives of soldiers on the battlefield. In a more remote area, hampered with rough terrain or long distances, or remote islands, blood products can reach people in record time where it just would not have been possible before.

Vaccine delivery is also vital to public health and to prevent disease spread, especially to remote or island communities. But what about an outbreak of a deadly disease? We will be able to disseminate critical medications and vaccines to large populations like never before, even if they are quarantined.

So I gave you three deliveries use cases, but let’s not forget about search and rescue. I think rescue from drowning is pretty compelling. Water rescue is dangerous and takes some time even if lifeguards are standing by. Sometimes a potential victim does not have minutes. Drones can drop an inflatable giving rescue personnel more time to reach them.

Mass casualty from natural disaster is another important use for drones in locating displaced people and helping to get rescue supplies to them. Assisting in providing wireless communications when conventional systems are out, or finding missing people, are all possible with drones.

Photo by NASA

DroneAdvice: We understand that around 60% of people in the world don’t have a reliable mailing address. Tell us a bit about how AirBox Technologies® is helping fix this problem, and about how its system fits into the medical drone ecosystem.

Dr. Tucker: It is true that approximately 4 billion people in the world do not have a defined address. This is a real problem in a world that is developing many on-demand delivery models. Countries without an address get left behind and lose out on the economic benefit that this provides. Most of us in developed countries take this for granted. AirBox Home provides its user with a GPS address that can move with the user. The box can be moved to where you are located very easily. This doesn’t currently exist. In addition, you can potentially have a network of AirBox Homes around a city or neighborhood and have the box assigned to you when a drone delivery is coming. The box is secure and could be assignable to any number of users. Having a secure box is necessary for healthcare applications in the US due to HIPPA laws for privacy.

DroneAdvice: Has AirBox Technologies® completed any real-world trials? If so, how did the system perform?

Dr. Tucker: We have done deliveries to the box in testing. We are now implementing this technology in multiple places around the globe. We can integrate with almost any drone platforms and can also accept ground deliveries.

DroneAdvice: What do you think needs to happen from a regulatory standpoint for drones to be fully harnessed in healthcare and for the AirBox Technologies® system to be widely adopted?

Dr. Tucker: We will need safe automated drone flights to be realized. Point to point delivery, of say blood specimens from a clinic to a lab, will be frequent, lightweight and time-sensitive which is ideal for drone delivery and it will actually cost less than current ground-based courier business models. In order to achieve this, we certainly need BVLOSflight, flights over populations or people and eventually even nighttime flights. Drone corridors can be used for safety and to minimize potential for harm and also annoyance to humans.

Dr. Tucker is a physician executive and a practicing emergency physician at U.S. Acute Care Solutions, a national integrated acute care company.

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