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The drone which completed the first-ever autonomous beyond 'visible line of sight' delivery of insulin Andrew Downes/Xposure
Inis Mór

'World's first' use of drone technology to deliver insulin to island off Galway coast

The drone was successfully piloted to Inis Mór by researchers from NUI Galway.

A GROUP OF Irish-based scientists have completed what is being described as the first ever delivery of diabetes medicine using a type of drone technology off the coast of Co Galway.

Researchers from NUI Galway successfully piloted the drone from Na Mine airport in Connemara to the airstrip on Inis Mór on the Aran Islands, where it completed a delivery of insulin and glucagon.

The drone also collected a sample of patient’s blood from Inis Mór, before returning to the Connemara airport.

Its round trip journey – described as the world’s first ‘beyond visual line of sight drone delivery’ of the medicines – took around 32 minutes to complete.

The 21km journey was supported by the Irish Aviation Authority and took place between commercial flights, showing the possibility of future deliveries within planned corridors.

As the drone flew, its launch team had a live first-person view camera feed from the aircraft so that they could maintain their vision once the drone flew beyond their line of sight.

Meanwhile, a second team on Inis Mór also had a ground control station where they could monitor the location of the drone before it landed at its destination.

The head of the project, Professor Derek O’Keeffe of NUI Galway, explained why the capability to deliver insulin and medications in times of crisis, particularly during extreme weather events, is needed.

“Climate change means that these types of severe weather events are becoming more prevalent,” he said.

“Individuals and communities in rural locations can become isolated for days after a severe weather event and an emergency may arise where patients can run out of their medicine.

“Therefore, 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.”

Drones have previously delivered other medical supplies such as defibrilators, blood and organs.

However, it is hoped that this latest delivery will provide a blueprint for those seeking to bring supplies to more remote locations in future.

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