Healthcare Application of UAVs?


Roy Beasley
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I'm in the Houston / Texas Gulf coast area. We obviously have a lot of potential use for refineries, farming (yes, even wineries), ranching, weather and damage surveillance and reporting (e.g. insurance after storms, beach erosion, etc.), tower and bridge inspections, and the like. One area that I am also interested in, since one of the Houston area's major industries is hospitals/healthcare, is possible applications of UAVs for healthcare. I've spent some time thinking about this, but I'm just not coming up with ways to use UAVs for healthcare.

A question for this group: can any of you think of potential uses of UAVs in healthcare?

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Alan, you came thru again! MatterNet sounds fascinating, and obviously this company has done their homework. Drug/healthcare materials delivery to remote sites and to areas hit by disasters, etc. is a fine use of drones in healthcare.

But, I don't see a direct application to a modern metropolitan area, such as CVS, Walgreens, and other drug stores  and/or hospitals delivering goods to communities - delivering prescription medicine using drones would seem more than a little hazardous, and insurance and public opinion might not allow this. Deliveries to remote villages, communities hit by natural disasters (e.g. landslides, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, etc.) - this seems a no-brainer, and MatterNet would seem an excellent player in that arena.

I so enjoy our conversations! Keep up the great work and support to this community!

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Thanks for your enthusiasm and support, @Roy Beasley. Like where your head is at. Not sure our regulations / behavior toward sUAS (at least here in the U.S.) is there yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if we started seeing more experimentation in metropolitan areas over the next few years. Looking at companies like Amazon to pave the way, but who knows what'll happen. So much innovation right now.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Roy & Alan.  From my work in the aerospace & defense industry, I recall seeing a DARPA concept for a drone that would be large enough to pick up a wounded soldier, then carry him/her to a nearby base.  Emergency MEDEVAC.  Obviously beyond the near-term commercial market but I bet within 20 years we'll see it.

A more realistic near-term application would be more timely and urgent air quality measurement, from a WMD attack or toxic gas leak situation.  Not directly for hospitals and healthcare, but they would help the regional health people predict and plan for the number of people affected who they would have to be treating.  Obviously a long term and expensive undertaking to have this capability ready to go on a moment's notice...I'm sure there's people in DC who you could find willing to help you pay for that there. :-/

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Interesting idea to use a "sniffer" drone to check air quality and radiation. I can certainly see uses, assuming the drone could fly long enough to get into a 'target' area and take readings, and samples as necessary, do a quick analysis, and transmit back the results. Of course, you might not need the drone to return in many cases. Sounds like a candidate for a government-funded study. NASA uses come to mind in the same vein, to have these "sniffer" drones (in addition to rovers) to cover larger landing sites - I have heard about NASA-type uses, admittedly with impacts due to low gravity and/or lack of atmosphere affecting the ability to use drones on moons, planets, and asteroids. 

Edited by Roy Beasley
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I used to be an analytical chemist, my focus was specifically on Hg contamination, however we were an environmental lab and ran a ton of air samples, drones could serve as a fantastic sampling source for multiple altitudes to be able to sample Carbon dioxide, methane, volatile organics (VOC), and a whole slew more; being able to capture this data over such a large area and at a multitude of altitudes could allow for much more detailed and informative studies on air pollution and green house effects. Actually while i'm thinking of this it could also be utilized by the CDC to investigate airborne contaminants and vectors for disease, while reducing risk to humans by sending the drone to collect the samples. Even small sets of data on how transmission occurs can help narrow down the source of an epidemic. 

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6 hours ago, Roy Beasley said:

Excellent ideas!

I believe we've now established that we need someone to create chemical sensors/collectors that can be carried by a drone. We need to get a few folks to develop a design and functional specs and get this patented really soon!

It would be fun and feasible to jump on this.  But how about we find the customers first and get their money for it up front...

Hey, this would be a great Kickstarter project!  It might actually be out there already...when I think up a new business or product idea that's one of the early places I go to see if someone already beat me to it.

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I suppose the simple approach would be to contact environmental analytical companies, or research universities, as the collection is a little glass vial with a plug on top. See if they are interested in this kind of data, It may be hard to scale down the GC/MS Though it is not out of the realm of possibilities to be able to attach some spectroscopy equipment, what would be really cool is if one could develop some sort of thin layer chromatography or other mechanism on a little film that would test and report accurately levels of what ever you are interested in. I mean O2 and CO2 sensors are in our cars, so there is merit to the technology. 

If the testing instrumentation comes to fruition, it would allow long term analysis of a particular area, or areas to be able to show migration of contaminants, and effects on concentration over time. As well as develop a more accurate set of base line measurements for comparison in later times. Data, Data, Data....

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