A drone carried out test flights in Antwerp, in eastern Belgium, to transport human tissues from one hospital to another, an unprecedented experience in Europe that could save precious time when used in operations.
The device, piloted by the Flemish company Helicus, took off on Tuesday from a building of the ZNA hospital network and landed four minutes later on the roof of the Sint-Agustinus building of the GZA hospitals, 800 meters away.
Inside a tube attached to the drone was a bottle with potentially carcinogenic human tissue that had to be analyzed in the laboratory of the second center.
That test flight, followed by three others throughout the day, is a first on European soil: for now, Helicus is the only community company that has received authorization from Brussels to fly drones for medical purposes over a city and piloted remotely, out of the operator’s field of vision.
The tests, carried out with a device from the Belgian manufacturer SABCA, have come before the approval of a new European regulation that is expected to arrive in 2023 to generalize this means of transporting human tissues.
Helicus is committed to its commercial development and to making regular flights from 2024.
“The great advantage of drones is that they combine speed, reducing the average transport time, and regularity, because they guarantee logistical reliability,” explains Mikael Shamim, president of Helicus
The four laboratories of the two hospital networks take 1,200 tests every year during medical operations that must be urgently analyzed to detect cancer cells and thus determine how the intervention continues.