Stony Brook University is collaborating with US-based startup Vayu Inc., which specialises in the development of medical delivery drones, to transport medical samples using drones in Madagascar.

Due to the lack of roads in Madagascar leading to the communities most heavily burdened by disease, such as tapeworm disease, medical workers are required to travel on foot for up to nine hours each way.

To speed up the delivery of blood and stool samples to labs, faculty and students from Stony Brook University Medical Center sought to partner with Vayu to transport blood, stool and tissue samples to the Centre ValBio research station for quick evaluation diagnosis.

The partnership is supported by the Madagascan government and backed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In July 2016 the team completed a series of successful long-range drone flights with blood and stool samples, which were flown from villages in rural Madagascar to Stony Brook University’s Centre ValBio research station for further testing.

“The flights to and from villages in the Ifanadiana district of Madagascar ushers in a new era in bringing healthcare to people living in really remote settings,” said Founding Director of Stony Brook’s Global Health Institute, Dr Peter Small.

“This would not have been possible without the support of the government and people of Madagascar. In this context drones will find innumerable uses such as accelerating the diagnosis of tuberculosis and ensuring the delivery of vaccines,” continued Dr Small.

According to Deccan Chronicle, the drones being used are about the size of a large picnic table and have two sets of wings. They take off and land like helicopters and have a flight range of about 64km. Blood and other medical samples can be secured in small compartments in the body of the drone.

“Vayu’s accomplishment is as significant for the field of public health in developing countries, where limited access hinders healthcare as it is for the future of autonomous unmanned vehicles,” concluded Vayu’s CEO, Daniel Pepper.

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