First European blood transport by passenger drone in Sint-Truiden
For the first time in the EU, a large unmanned passenger drone has been used to transport blood during a test flight. On Tuesday afternoon, the aircraft flew 1 km through the DronePort test airspace in Sint-Truiden, Limburg.
The drone is an Ehang 216 AAV, built by manufacturer EHang Holdings Limited, and is a two-seat passenger aircraft with 16 electric motors that flies at a cruising speed of 130 km/h and can stay airborne for up to 30 minutes. The flight was conducted under the supervision of Helicus, a Belgium-based company that develops drone applications and technologies for medical transport.
The drone flight followed a pre-designed flight path. Safety pilots on the ground closely monitored the flight and were on standby, but no intervention was needed.
According to Helicus CEO Mikael Shamim, this is the first time this type of drone has taken to the skies in Belgium, and the first time in Europe that it has been used for medical transport. "Until now, no aircraft of this type has been able to fly so closely to residential areas," he said. According to Shamim, the approval is "essential to prepare the next step towards effective use for medical applications in everyday environments".
However, there is still much work to be done at the European level before such drones can effectively carry out medical transport. According to Sint-Truiden alderman and MEP Hilde Vautmans, the EU is working on this.
"But as you can see, technology and innovation move faster than regulations," she said. "Surely we in Europe have to ensure that we can follow the development of this technology and innovation, because the applications here can be huge".
© PHOTO KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP © BELGA VIDEO HANDOUT HELICUS