Diabetes is a disease that results in high blood sugar. A diabetic person’s body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t effectively use the insulin it makes. External insulin is the only available treatment for diabetes because it replaces the hormone that your body isn’t able to produce. Thus, when a diabetic patient is deprived of this crucial medicine, it can result in fatal consequences. On December 17, 2019, the world’s 1st delivery of this lifesaving diabetic medicine was carried out by a drone from NUI Galway (National University of Ireland, Galway). The delivery took place from the Connemara Airport in Galway to Inis Mor in the Aran Islands. The drone approximately traveled across 18 km of water in a mere 15 minutes.

NUI Galway drone delivers diabetic medicine
The team of researchers from NUI Galway with the delivery drone

World’s fastest commercial VTOL drone

Drones have served various purposes since their debut and now scientists have created a UAV to serve diabetes patients. The National University of Ireland, Galway, researchers used Wingcopter’s 178 Heavy Lift drone to carry out this project. The researchers wanted to show the benefits when normal delivery channels are down. Even during severe weather or other calamitous events, medicines could still reach those in need.

The Heavy Lift drone is a VTOL drone that flew beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) by being connected to the internet. The drone contained an insulated payload box with a max capacity of 6 kilograms. The payload was comprised of insulin, glucagon prescription medicines as well as a collection of blood samples. Another fascinating feature of the drone is its astounding range. Despite being all-electric, the drone can travel up to 100 kilometers. To add on to that, this Wingcopter drone has its own world speed record of 240 km/h. A similar initiative by a company called Zipline is presently running in Rwanda where drones transport blood, medicines, and vaccines to villages and local hospitals.

The NUI is a third-level teaching and research institution. The University has full five QS stars for excellence. It ranks among the top 1 percent of universities according to the 2019 QS World University Rankings.

Professor O’Keeffe said, “To date, medical drones have demonstrated success, for example in delivering blood, defibrillators and human organs for transplant. This #DiabetesDrone project represents another milestone in the use of drones to improve patient care.”

Insulin is essential for my survival and having a diabetes drone service in an emergency situation would ensure this survival while living on an offshore island,” Marion Hernon, a patient living with diabetes on the Aran Islands, said in a statement.