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Leonardo testing biomedical transportation via drones


June 3, 2021
By Naomi Szeben


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Leonardo continues biomedical material drone transportation trials in partnership with Telespazio and the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital, and with the authorization of the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC).

This is one of Italy’s first demonstrations delivered via drone for biomedical material, accessing routes with  low ecological and acoustic impact.

The first phase was completed successfully in October 2020. The second test involves an electric drone fitted with new ‘lift and cruise’ technology, which has an automatic control mode when out of the operator’s field of vision (BVLOS – Beyond Visual Line of Sight). It also simulated the transport of biomedical goods between the Santa Marinella collection centre and the Palidoro analysis centre 30 km away, taking a route that was longer and passed further away from the coast.

The most recent test used the Telespazio T-DROMES platform, featuring new command and control functions for the drone via satellite. The platform will be the main interface for the healthcare operator, which will be able to request the service using a simple app. The Italian Air Force also took part in this test phase with a helicopter from the 85° Centro SAR of the 15th Pratica di Mare Wing carrying out a simulated search and rescue mission.

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Leonardo explains it was possible to reconfigure the route by sharing the airspace management procedures of the players involved at the test planning phase; this allowed for operational coordination between the manned and unmanned systems through D-Flight and the ATC authorities in charge.

The long-term objective is to extend the service carrying real biological samples – including urban environments – linking up different locations and health facilities with simultaneous operations by several drones.