European first: blood transport with unmanned passenger drone in Sint-Truiden


For the first time, an unmanned and automated passenger drone flew medical content through European airspace, in Sint-Truiden, Limburg. Technically, the way has been paved to cheaply, environmentally friendly and efficiently carry out complex medical transports in everyday life, for which helicopters or light aircraft are traditionally used. Legally, however, there is still a long way to go.

Residents near DronePort, the former military base in the Sint-Truiden district of Brustem, must have been surprised when they saw an oversized drone flying through the test airspace of the base. The extremely stable passenger aircraft with 2 seats, 16 electric motors and propellers, a cruising speed of 130 km/h, a range of 30 km and a maximum flight time of 30 minutes completed the fully unmanned and automated test flight of a total of 2.6 km, over an inhabited area, with 10 blood bags on board. All under the guidance of the Belgian company Helicus, which develops drone applications and technologies for medical transport.  

This type of drone is perfectly suited to quickly transport blood between hospitals and emergency doctors to hard-to-reach places. European transport legislation is not keeping up with technology and innovation in the sector for the time being, but the test is a step in the right direction.