By Chris Stonor
U.S-based Matternet, a leading developer of urban drone services, announced this week the commencement of medical deliveries at Labor Berlin Charité Vivantes in Germany with regular flights expected next year. This program is “the first urban BVLOS medical drone delivery network in the European Union,” reports a company press release.
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The project expects “to significantly improve the timeliness and efficiency of Labor Berlin’s diagnostics services” by avoiding road congestion and “improve patient experience with potentially life-saving benefits and lower costs.”
Andreas Raptopoulos, CEO of Matternet, commented, “We continue to expand drone delivery operations around the world with a focus on urban environments. Hospitals and laboratories in densely populated cities like Berlin need fast and predictable transportation methods that avoid urban delays.” He continued, “We are thrilled to partner with Labor Berlin and look forward to streamlining their diagnostics work to benefit Berlin’s hospitals and residents.”
Labor Berlin (LB) is Europe’s largest hospital laboratory with state-of-the-art facilities in 13 hospitals across the city. The organisation is responsible for diagnostics covering 80 percent of patient beds in Berlin. Currently, over 15,000 samples are transported daily across its extensive network and drone delivery has the potential to annually serve millions of patients.
This network will connect three locations initially: LB’s central lab on Charité Campus Virchow-Klinikum, the Charité Hospital Campus Benjamin Franklin and the Corona Clinic by Vivantes – Corona-Behandlungszentrum Jafféstraße.
During the early stages of the program, Matternet will work with LB to determine the best ways to integrate drone delivery into the laboratory’s existing system. The partners hope to invite government and public sector representatives to observe flights and engage other airspace users such as Helicopter Emergency Rescue Services, Berlin’s police and airports. Matternet will also work closely with the Air Navigation Service Provider in Germany and UTM administrators to integrate the drones safely into Berlin’s airspace.
Nina Beikert, MD of Labor Berlin, said, “Patient care is our absolute priority. Reducing diagnostic lead times can greatly improve outcomes and experiences.” She continued, “Matternet’s drone delivery network will not only be able to transport patient samples from hospitals to Labor Berlin facilities up to 70 percent faster, but also reduce vehicle traffic and emissions in Berlin’s centre.”
Matternet drones have been operating around the world since 2017 through partnerships with Swiss Post, UPS and more recently Japan Airlines. In Switzerland, the system is operating at Lugano’s EOC hospital and the University Hospital Zurich. In the US, operations are taking place at Wake Forest Baptist Health and WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, N.C.
The company’s technology is also enabling UPS to provide drone delivery service of prescription medicines for The Villages, Florida, one of the U.S. largest retirement communities. The service provides an option for seniors at higher risk for the Coronavirus infection to receive prescriptions without going to a store.
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