Reducing surgery times with drones
The route on 5 February 2020 was ambitious. A drone flew a total of six times between the army hospital in Wandsbek-Gartenstadt and the Marienkrankenhaus hospital in Hohenfelde, about five kilometers away as the crow flies. And this over urban areas – where police or rescue helicopters may be expected at any time – and within the control zone of Hamburg Airport. Therefore, the demands on drone operations in terms of security were more stringent. It had to be proven in advance that the automated flights above populated areas and busy roads would be secure at all times. Planning and coordination, particularly with the state aeronautical authority and the air traffic control center (DFS) at Hamburg Airport, took several months.
Clearance for intensive testing
There were consistently positive results: all the test flights were successfully completed. The drones were in operation for ten minutes at a time – and thus significantly faster than an ambulance, which in an emergency would transport the tissue samples through the city center, driving with blue lights flashing. The knowledge gained is now the basis for a trial operation lasting several months, during which further factors for economic operation are to be investigated.
A joint project
Medifly is a joint project sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Transport. To this end, the Center of Applied Aeronautical Research (ZAL), FlyNex, GLVI Gesellschaft für Luftverkehrsinformatik GmbH and Lufthansa Technik AG have joined forces. The Hamburg State Agency for Economy, Transport and Innovation and the two hospitals involved are also on board as associated partners.
The Hanseatic city is a pioneer in the field of drones; in 2018, it was welcomed as one of the first cities in the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) initiative of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities (EIP-SCC), supported by the European Commission. Hamburg is thus an official model region for the development of civil applications of drone and other urban air traffic technologies.