drone sighting
The adoption and use of advanced technologies have enabled Abu Dhabi to respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan to deliver medical supplies through drones will further sharpen the emirate's health-care facilities to counter future medical emergencies. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi will soon used advanced drones to distribute and transfer medical supplies within its health-care sector.

The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), the emirate’s health-care regulator, announced the round-the-clock delivery system on Tuesday and said that drones would use 40 stations across the emirate by 2022.

The project is a collaboration between the DoH, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and drone developers SkyGo and Matternet. Drones in the supply chain will be used to safely deliver medical supplies, medicine and blood units, vaccines and samples between laboratories, pharmacies, blood banks and healthcare facilities, thus enabling emergency responses and in reducing occupancy rates in health-care facilities.

Better emergency preparedness

“The project aims to ensure the overall health and safety of the community, improving the sector’s efficiency while also increasing Abu Dhabi’s emergency preparedness. Additionally, the use of drones will yield environmental benefits with a reduction in carbon emissions and reduced road traffic congestion. The project also supports UAE ambitions to build a knowledge-based economy by offering several technical career opportunities for UAE national talent within this emerging field,” the DoH said in a statement.

“Under the wise leadership and its directives, we look forward to working with our partners to make Abu Dhabi the first city in the Middle East and North Africa to adopt and use of this technology. We will continue to deploy advanced technologies that will improve the health-care sector for the benefit of citizens and residents. Looking ahead, we will continue working towards establishing the emirate as a global healthcare hub while at the same time developing a healthcare system that is fit for the future,” said Abdulla Al Hamed, DoH chairman.

Advanced technology

The adoption and use of the advanced technologies have also enabled Abu Dhabi to respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic. Abu Dhabi has been recognised as a leading city in global rankings for its response to the pandemic.

“With advanced infrastructure, Abu Dhabi is capable of serving as a test bed for promising innovations with practical use-cases, especially those that seek to preserve the health and safety of our population. We look forward to bringing this project to life and seeing it become one of Abu Dhabis pioneering initiatives,” Al Hamed said.

“Today, we are celebrating together with our stakeholders an important milestone for drone delivery; it is a testimony moving from a concept to a reality. The advancement of drone applications and technology is fast moving, and we are pragmatically preparing the infrastructure to support drones smooth and safe deployments and integrations within smart city’s ecosystem contributing to the UAE society wellbeing,” said Saif Al Suwaidi, GCAA director general.

Testing phases

SkyGo and Matternet have completed phase one of testing, and are now working on phase two, which will be finalised by the end of this year and address all aviation safety requirement and risk assessments. A demonstration of the technology has also been hosted recently in the presence of senior officials, which included transporting and delivering medical samples from Zayed Sports City to a laboratory. The samples were transported with end-to-end chain of custody, while the drone flew autonomously at an altitude of 300 feet above ground level.

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‘Logistics and supply chain solutions’

“I am delighted to announce the launch of the first drone delivery operation from Abu Dhabi. SkyGo is an Abu Dhabi-based disruptive technology company providing logistics and supply chain solutions by drones,” said Sultan Al Dhaheri, SkyGo executive board member.

SkyGo is the first company to have a license in the UAE for BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) commercial drone delivery operations. SkyGo and Matternet bring a world-leading drone technology and aviation expertise that aim to offer sourcing and urban logistics solutions by providing faster, more effective and safer sustainable alternatives.