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Drone to be used to transport blood to rural areas in South Africa

SANBS and Western Cape Blood Service come together to showcase how they intend to save more lives using drones.

Drones will soon be used to transport blood to remote rural areas in South Africa, the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) said on Friday – a day after demonstrating how the technology would assist to save lives.

On Thursday the SANBS and Western Cape Blood Service (WCBS) came together at the North Eastern Radio Flyers in Sandton, where they showcased how they intend to save more lives using drones.

Named the TRON Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) this drone is a highly specialised aircraft that will be used to transport blood from blood banks to hospitals in remote areas. The TRON, like a helicopter, is capable of vertically taking off and landing.

Once in flight, it switches into a highly efficient aircraft.

In an emergency, blood can be delivered to hospitals much faster and more efficiently than ever before. TRON can carry up to 2kg and cool it actively. The TRON will fly at an altitude of 100 m to hospitals as far away as 100 km delivering up to four units of life-saving blood.

Saying it is a first for South Africa, the SANBS – a non-profit organisation, said the TRON aerial vehicle would complement the existing logistics infrastructure.

Dr Jonathan Louw, CEO of the SANBS: “We believe that this is an innovative step in the history of blood transfusion. SANBS is determined to improve rapid access to life-saving blood products in rural areas through the use of drone technology.

“Our concept is globally unique in that we will provide two-way logistics; patients can receive emergency ‘O negative’ blood from one of our blood banks via drone.

“The same drone can then take that patient’s blood sample to the blood bank for comprehensive cross-matching and then safely and rapidly deliver compatible blood back to the patient”

Commenting on the development, WCBS said the initiative was commendable and would indeed be instrumental in saving lives.

Dr Greg Bellairs, WCBS CEO/Medical Director: “We celebrate a milestone. Our main aim as a blood service in the Western Cape is to save people’s lives by providing sufficient, safe blood. Drones will assist us to provide blood timeously to where it is needed.”

This publication has been adapatated by Cédric Giboulot for 's readers.

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