The South African National Blood Service (SANBS), a non-profit organization that provides essential services around the provisioning of blood and blood products in South Africa, has developed its own drones for the transportation of blood. Named the TRON drone, it features a wing design suited for maximum efficiency, and allows for long travel with minimal power usage.

The drones were showcased in Sandton and SANBS demonstrated how they intend to save more lives using drone technology to deliver blood.

"We believe that this is an innovative step in the history of blood transfusion. SANBS is determined to improve rapid access to life-saving blood products in rural areas through the use of drone technology. Our concept is globally unique in that we will provide two-way logistics; patients can receive emergency '0 negative' blood from one of our blood banks via drone. The same drone can then take that patient's blood sample to the blood bank for comprehensive cross-matching and then safely and rapidly deliver compatible blood back to the patient" said Dr. Jonathan Louw, CEO of the SANBS.

Medical deliveries using drones

It's important to note that South Africa is not the first country to use drones for medical related deliveries. Rwanda was arguably the first country to do this with Zipline drones which were capable of making up to 150 deliveries per day of life-saving blood to 21 transfusing facilities located in the western half of the country. This was followed by Tanzania which also partnered with Zipline to launch what they dubbed the world’s largest medical drone delivery service. Earlier in 2019 Ghana also announced a multimillion dollar deal it awarded to Zipline to make medical deliveries in the West African country.

However, what makes the South African implementation of using drones for blood deliveries is not only the two way deliveries but also the fact that the SANBS designed and made its own drones instead of outsourcing that function to an American company like Zipline.

TRON drone

The TRON is a professional and high-performing drone according to the SANBS as it boasts a maximum take-off weight of 13,5 kg and can fly at speeds of up to 160km/h.

The TRON's cargo compartment is able to securely accommodate even the most fragile payload, up to 2 kg and cool it actively. The TRON will fly at altitude of 100m to hospitals and as far away as 100km delivering up to four units of life saving blood.

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