In September, drones will be used at AZ Turnhout to transport pathology samples and pharmaceuticals between the two major hospital sites during a unique trial project.
AZ Turnhout, City of Turnhout and drone service provider Skyports will jointly test a new logistics service during which medical products will be transported by drone. Skyports’ drones will transfer pathology samples and pharmaceuticals between various hospital sites that would otherwise be moved by traditional ground-based transportation. The project partners aim to start flight operations in September.
“Drone transport has the potential to improve the speed and efficiency of medical delivery by avoiding congestion and delays on busy roads”, says Duncan Walker, managing director at Skyports, “ultimately providing a better patient experience with life-saving benefits at lower cost.”
Griet Braekmans, Facility Director AZ Turnhout: “The hospital is very excited about this trial project. We’re always looking for new and sustainable solutions to optimize our logistics flows. Due to the establishment of the various hospital networks in Flanders, hospitals will rely more on each other in the future. By using drones, we can customize patient care and enable a better collaboration between the different hospitals. Pathology samples will get quicker where they need to go leading to doctors and patients getting the test results faster. During our one-month trial period, we’ll mainly use the drones for the transport of pathology samples between the labs of the two hospital sites. Later on, the drones might be used as well to enable transport between the hospitals sites of AZ Turnhout and external partners or other hospitals.”
Skyports is currently working with hospitals and health care providers in various locations in Europe and Africa to establish a medical drone delivery network that will help save lives and improve access to essential medical services for patients.
Skyports Managing Director Duncan Walker added: “We’re proud to be working closely with the City of Turnhout as well the hospital and are looking forward to being one of the first within Belgium to demonstrate the value that drones can bring to the medical sector. By participating in the EU’s Smart City Initiative, we hope to help build a viable commercial drone delivery ecosystem in Europe.”
“We’ll extensively inform the general public before the start of the first flights”, says Marc Boogers, council member responsible for Mobility at the city of Turnhout. Turnhout is actively looking for new mobility solutions. “On one side, we’re seeing increasing road congestion, on the other side we see that more and more people value the importance of sustainable alternatives that have a lower environmental impact compared to traditional car and truck alternatives. The city council takes its responsibility and is actively investigating how we can improve the efficiency of the traffic in our city, lower its impact on the environment as well as how we can make our traffic safer and transport more affordable. The drone transport trial project fits very well in this framework. Urban air mobility is still new in Belgium, but we believe that it can play a part in the journey towards a less congested and sustainable future. Through this project, we are also taking up our leading role as a Smart City again, after previously participating in a project to optimize the traffic flows in and around the city. Moreover, by signing the mayor-covenant, we are committed to reducing our CO2-emissions by 40% by 2030. And this can’t be an empty promise.”
The project is part of an EU Smart City initiative on Urban Air Mobility (EIP-SCC) involving 42 cities across Europe. The Turnhout project will be one of the first of its kind to actively trial drone flights between hospitals. If successful, this trial project could lead to permanent drone operations on a larger scale.
More information about the European Smart City Initiative on Urban Air Mobility can be found