Baltimore Sun

Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun

Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun

Drones could soon get crucial medical supplies to patients in need

By Meredith Cohn

Aerial drones could one day ferry life-or-death medical supplies between hospitals now that Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have figured out how to keep blood, medications and vaccines consistently cool during the flights.

Interest in the use of drones has surged in recent years as companies, including retail giant Amazon, explore the use of the unmanned aircraft to efficiently and cheaply transport goods above traffic, through bad weather or to otherwise inaccessible or remote areas.

"If the blood somehow was changed or destroyed in transport, then none of it matters," said Dr. Timothy Amukele, a pathologist and director of the Hopkins Bayview Medical Center's clinical laboratories, who has spent the last 18 months on a team perfecting refrigeration on drones.

Amukele published findings in the journal Transfusion in November that showed no biological change to blood packed in specially refrigerated coolers during test flights, which lasted about 26 minutes and covered 12 miles at 328 feet above ground. He said he knows of no other advanced effort to solve the temperature problem.

Jeff Street

Jeff Street is a drone engineer and pilot with more than ten years of experience leading small teams to develop innovative new vehicles.