In a world first, diabetes medication has been delivered to the Aran Islands by a drone.
According to NUI Galway, which has been working on this project with pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk for several months, the aim is to be able to provide life saving medications to people with diabetes in rural areas during adverse weather conditions.
The drone took off from Connemara Airport and landed in Inis Mór in the Aran Islands. It was carrying prescription medications (insulin and glucagon) and it also collected a patient's blood sample.
According to consultant physician and professor of medical device technology at NUI Galway, Prof Derek O'Keeffe, it is essential that planning for an emergency medical situation takes place before the emergency happens "to ensure optimum care for patients with diabetes at all times".
"It is incumbent on us to develop a solution for these emergencies, which addresses the clinical, technical and regulatory issues before a sentinel event occurs. To date, medical drones have recently demonstrated success for blood, defibrillator and organ delivery. This #DiabetesDrone project represents another milestone in the use of drones to improve patient care," he said.
The drone was supported by the Irish Aviation Authority. It operated between commercial flights and was in contact with air space regulators at all times. According to NUI Galway, this shows "the possibility of future deliveries of this kind within planned drone corridors".
The drone used is capable of reaching destinations of up to 100km away in less than one hour. The journey to Inis Mór took around 15 minutes.
According to Diabetes Ireland, over 225,000 people have diabetes and most of these require insulin to manage the disease. As a result, it is essential that people with diabetes have access to this lifesaving medicine at all times, which can be challenging if they live in remote geographic regions and/or if there has been a severe weather event.
*Pictured is Prof Derek O'Keeffee and the Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift drone used in the Diabetes Drone Project
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