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Testing Agile Cargo Drone Delivery to Improve Healthcare: Dronistics

© 2019 EPFL

© 2019 EPFL

Hard-to-reach communities need more than paved roads to access healthcare. They need affordable and convenient transportation to and from local healthcare providers.


Hard-to-reach communities need more than paved roads to access healthcare. They need both affordable and convenient transportation to and from local healthcare providers. If it costs too much to get to the clinic, then they’ll never get to the clinic. If it takes too much time to get to the clinic, then they’ll never get to the clinic. Why? Because their choices are limited. They may be too sick to spend hours traveling back and forth to a clinic. They may not have the option of taking time off work or cannot afford to forgo the income. Or they may have family responsibilities that limit how long they can be away from home.

Hard-to-reach communities need more than paved roads to access healthcare. They need affordable and convenient transportation to and from local healthcare providers.

Cargo drones that deliver medical supplies always follow predetermined routes. They transport medicines from one fixed point to another—regional hospitals to remote clinics, for example. But what if Community Health Workers (CHWs) need additional medicines while visiting remote communities? They may not know exactly what they need ahead of time or they’re unable to carry a wide range of medicines with them across rough terrain. Worse, what if CHWs aren’t available and patients have difficulty getting to the clinic or to the pharmacy?

While discussions around the use of cargo drones for medical deliveries typically focus on “long range” deliveries (100km+), smaller cargo drones can also play an important role in literal last-mile deliveries, the last 1,600 meters.

To explore this further, together with WeRobotics and Dominican Republic Flying Labs we have conducted tests in the remote mountains of Montasitos. Using large, long-range drones to make one-mile deliveries isn’t a good use of resources. These drones typically need more space to land and require pre-approved fixed-routes. In contrast, because the PackDrone from Dronistics is more compact and safer than a traditional drone, they can deliver directly to individuals within a one-mile radius. This approach could help Flying Labs democratize cargo drone deliveries, enabling remote communities to both send and receive deliveries.

Because Dronistics is more of a 'flying ball' than a traditional drone, they can deliver directly to individuals within a one-mile radius.

This exploration in the Dominican Republic gave us various new lessons and interesting feedbacks from our collaborators. These tests strengthened the relationship of Dronistics with WeRobotics and Flying Labs and we’re already exploring further collaboration around the world.

In the meantime, we sincerely thank the Municipality of Montasitos along with local communities for their time and their kind welcome. We also thank the Centro de Innovacion De Drones, Parque Cibernatico, Dronistics and Pfizer for their generous partnership and support on this project. We would also like to thank NCCR Robotics for supporting us through NCCR Robotics Spin Fund Grant.