Air transport is widely used in military and civil emergency medicine owing to the speed of action, lack of restrictions characteristic of ground vehicles, and the ability to reach distant, otherwise inaccessible places. However, air transport also has limitations, including dependence on weather conditions, and relatively lower load capacity and much higher costs compared with ground ambulances.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, may be a great alternative. Drones can perfectly identify the place of the accident, the number of victims, and the scale of the event before the arrival of emergency services. In spite of their relatively small dimensions, they are capable of carrying up to 5000kg of cargo. They can, therefore, support rescue operations by air-transporting goods on demand, such as blood bags, automated external defibrillators, and even people.


Two hospitals in Switzerland started using drones to deliver blood samples and other analysis material. This was the first case of a commercial application of unmanned aerial vehicles for medical purposes, giving hope for saving people’s lives faster than nowadays. These drones can carry light loads, of less than 2 kg, and move at speeds of up to 36 km/h while their maximum range is 20 km. In case of a breakdown, the machines are also equipped with parachutes so they can safely fall to the ground surface without destroying the delicate cargo.

The Karolinska Institute in Sweden connected a defibrillator to a drone owned by a fire station in Norrtälje, located in rural areas near Stockholm. The drone has been sent to a place at a distance of 10 km where there were reports of heart attacks in the last 8 years. It turned out that the average time from 18 flights of the drone was 5 minutes and 21 seconds compared with 22 minutes when using an ambulance.

The Polish Air Force Institute of Technology created a drone called AtraxM, designed to support rescue operations and air transport. For medical purposes, AtraxM delivers first aid kits or life-saving shock-recovery kits as well as medicines or blood bags prepared for immediate administration in cases that a quick reaction is required.

Another Polish project, called AirVein, assumes the creation of a system that will help hospitals and Regional Centers of Blood Donation and Blood Treatment in a quicker exchange of blood. The goal is to create a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, terrestrial infrastructure equipped with a hybrid navigation system, modules for storing and moving blood, and an information technology system coordinating the delivery.

In short, the use of drones for medical purposes brings many advantages as it shortens the time to reach the patient; reaches inaccessible places because of floods or blocked roads; reduces complications in the injured due to quick rescue and operations by medical emergency teams; and therefore having potential to save more lives quicker.

Here you can read more about the real possibilities and examples of using drones in rescue operations from all over the world.