CMI highlight: Use of drones in clinical microbiology and infectious diseases: current status, challenges and barriers
Mario Poljak and Anja Šterbenc summarise current knowledge regarding the use of drones in healthcare, focusing on infectious diseases and/or microbiology when applicable. Read more
Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles are autonomous or remotely controlled multipurpose aerial vehicles driven by aerodynamic forces and capable of carrying a payload. Whereas initially used exclusively for military purposes, the use of drones gradually spread into other areas. Given their great flexibility and favourable costs, the use of drones has also been piloted in various healthcare settings.
Information was sought through PubMed and extracted from peer-reviewed literature published between January 2010 and August 2019 and from reliable online news sources. The search terms drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, microbiology and medicine were used.
Peer-reviewed literature on the use of drones in healthcare has steadily increased in recent years. Drones have been successfully evaluated in various pilot programs and are already implemented in some settings for transporting samples and delivering blood, vaccines, medicines, organs, life-saving medical supplies and equipment. In addition, a promising proof-of-concept “lab-on-a-drone” was recently presented as well as several pilot studies showing the benefits of drone use in surveillance and epidemiology of infectious diseases.
The authors concluded that the potential for the use of drones in clinical microbiology, infectious diseases and epidemiology is enormous. Drones can help improve access to health care for people who might otherwise not receive appropriate care due to distance and lack of infrastructure or funds. However, factors such as national airspace legislation and medical legal issues, differences in topography and climate, cost-effectiveness, attitude and community acceptance in different cultures and societies currently prevent the widespread use of drones. Significant cost savings in terms of ground transportation, speed and convenience of delivery, as well as the growth of the UAV sector, will likely result in the implementation of UAVs in various medical fields over the next five years.