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Drones for medical supply delivery adopted in MENA for the first time

Department of Health (DoH), the regulator of the healthcare sector in Abu Dhabi, has announced that the Emirate is adopting advanced drones to distribute and transfer medical supplies within the healthcare sector.

The project, a first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa, will create a state-of-the-art delivery system and network using drones at 40 stations throughout the year 2022. The delivery and transfer system will have around-the-clock service and form part of the emergency response network available at healthcare facilities in Abu Dhabi.

It aligns with the year of preparation for the “UAE Projects of the 50”, the UAE's Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) Strategy, and broader strategies to position Abu Dhabi as a global hub for innovation.

The project is a collaboration between the DoH, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), SkyGo, and Matternet. It aims to ensure the overall health and safety of the community by improving the sector’s efficiency while also increasing Abu Dhabi’s emergency preparedness. In line with this, drones in the supply chain will be used to deliver medical supplies, medicine and blood units, vaccines, and samples between laboratories, pharmacies, blood banks across healthcare facilities around the city in a safe manner. This will help in emergencies and contribute to reducing occupancy rates in healthcare facilities as well as enhancing the quality of patient outcomes.

Additionally, the use of drones will yield environmental benefits with a reduction in CO2 emissions and reduced road traffic congestion. Moreover, the project supports the Emirate’s ambition to build a knowledge-based economy by offering several technical career opportunities for UAE national talent within this emerging field.

H.E. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, chairman of DoH - Abu Dhabi, said, ‘’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 healthcare 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.’’

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

Al Hamed added, “With advanced infrastructure, Abu Dhabi is capable of serving as a testbed 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 Dhabi’s pioneering initiatives.’’

H.E. Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director-general of the GCAA, said, “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’s wellbeing.” 

SkyGo and Matternet have completed phase one of testing and are now working on phase two, which will be finalized by the end of this year and will address all aviation safety requirements and risk assessments. A demonstration of the technology has been recently hosted which included transporting and delivering medical samples from Zayed Sports City to one of the Emirate laboratories. The samples were transported with an end-to-end chain of custody (GDPS compliant), while the drone flew autonomously at an altitude of 300 feet above ground level.