Friday 18 October 2019

Drone used to deliver insulin to Aran Islands

Professor Derek OKeefe, NUI Galway, with the worlds first diabetes drone. Photo:Andrew Downes, XPOSURE
Professor Derek OKeefe, NUI Galway, with the worlds first diabetes drone. Photo:Andrew Downes, XPOSURE

Eilish O’Regan

A home-delivery service with a difference has seen a drone transport diabetes medication to the Aran Islands for the first time.

In just 15 minutes the drone flew from Na Mine airport on Connemara to the air strip on Inis Mór.

NUI Galway  is leading the research project, which is the brainchild of Prof Derek O’Keeffe, a consultant endocrinologist .

Two years ago he noticed that due to flooding caused by Hurricane Ophelia his diabetes patients were unable to make it into his clinic. The same happened after Storm Emma, when people were snowed in.

Professor O’Keeffe, who is also a qualified engineer, set out to develop a technological solution that would allow drones to deliver insulin/glucagon to these patients and collect laboratory specimens if necessary.

Medical drones have previously demonstrated success, for example in delivering blood, defibrillators and human organs for transplant.

The flight to the Aran Islands is part of a research project that is being peer reviewed.

The delivery took place between scheduled commercial flights and the operators were in direct contact with the air space regulators at all times.

It was the first autonomous beyond visual line of sight medical drone delivery in Ireland and the drone was connected via Vodafone’s IoT network.

Prof O’Keeffe will use the flight as part of his academic research work into the use of drone technology to improve patient care.

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