With drone usage on the rise, a California city could be the first U.S. city to use drones to deliver blood from one medical facility to another.


The Stanford Blood Center has partnered with drone manufacturer Matternet and the City of Palo Alto to ask permission from the FAA to launch a pilot program to test the use of drones to deliver medical supplies like blood and test samples.

Doctors say it can take 30 minutes to an hour to currently transport blood, but it would take just 10 minutes with the use of a drone.

For a patient in critical condition, that can mean the difference between life and death. “In that situation, it behooves us to move the product as quickly as possible from here to the hospital,” said Stanford Blood Center Medical Director Tho Pham, MD. “And if we have something parked here — ready to fly at a moment’s notice — that would cut down on the time tremendously.”

The delivery would be dropped at a receiving station located in a hospital parking lot or area convenient for medical staff to access.

"With a system like this, you're able to save tremendous amount of time and generally reduce waste throughout the hospital system," Matternet CEO Andreas Rappopoulous said in a statement. “The two key things that you have to prove to the FAA is that you’re not going to harm people on the ground or increase the risk of other people using the airspace,” he continued. “If a propeller failed, for example, it would eject a parachute and make sure the aircraft descends without hurting anyone on the ground.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced it will select a small number of pilot projects that would help the integration of drones. Palo Alto city manager James Keene said they've submitted their application and are excited the pilot program could potentially happen.

"We saw it as a really opportune moment for us to be potentially on the front end of developing policies that could affect cities in the future," Keene said.

If approved, the drones would be used to fly blood in emergencies, where time is critical and they don't have enough staff to transport supplies quickly.

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