Special Issue "Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics"

A special issue of Drones (ISSN 2504-446X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 January 2022.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Paul Royall
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, King’s College London, 150 Stamford Street, London SE1 9NH, UK
Interests: drug delivery; drones and amorphous materials; lactose
Dr. Patrick Courtney
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
tec-connection, Oberlohnstrasse 3, D78467 Konstanz, Germany
Interests: laboratory robotics; materials logistics in the laboratory; system engineering; technology transfer

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Uncrewed aerial vehicles have the potential for making a huge impact in the area of logistics and transport. Medicines are typically lightweight but are extremely valuable in terms of their impact on the health of global populations, thus making these items a potential focus for the development of drone-based delivery solutions. A number of very good recently published papers have highlighted this potential; however, they have been distributed across a number of disparate journals. To date, there has not been a dedicated Special Issue focusing solely on the use of drones for solving transport problems associated with the delivery of medicines. Thus, we propose to fulfil this unmet need by asking researchers in this area to contribute to a Special Issue entitled “Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics” to be published in the journal Drones.

The scope of such a publication is very broad and will create a large readership for the included papers. For example, the end users, those who wish to transport medicines to geographically challenging locations, would be very interested in reading the latest developments in the area of drone delivery. These would be academic groups, non-governmental agencies, health authorities, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and charities. Such a series of papers would be very useful for those involved in the development of new packaging and those researching and developing new medicines that will eventually come onto the market. Aeronautical engineers and those researching in the area of drone development would be very keen to read and cite these papers as the results and thus, potential specifications published within the Special Issue would go on and influence their up-and-coming designs. Those involved in the regulation of medicines, the governance of air transport and the regulation of airspace would also find such a Special Issue of importance to their work and such a series of publications is likely to influence their approach to regulatory decision making in the future.

The guest editors already have good academic links with the universities of Cranfield, Nottingham, Lancaster, Vienna, EPFL and Latvia where key findings in the area of drone development and delivery applications are being made. This is a firm basis from which the guest editors will reach out to European, African, Asian and American research groups to elicit interest and the submission of their most recent research findings. The guest editors have good links with chief hospital pharmacists, medical practitioners and non-governmental organisations who also have a stake in pushing back the frontiers of what a drone can deliver. Doctors Courtney and Royall also have excellent links and working relationships with drone, logistics and packaging companies such as the Drone Office, Osprey, Skyport, Softbox, Intelsius, SwissPost, DHL, GE aviation, Zipline, Viapath, Novartis, GSK, MSD and Pfizer. The guest editors would also seek to reach out to those researching in the sensing and control systems associated with drones, packaging, stability analysis and those interfacing with the public in terms of medicines use to gain their interest and research papers associated with the drone delivery of medicines. Thus, attracting the required number of high impact papers, the associated reviewers and readership will be achievable in a relatively short space of time.

Dr. Paul Royall
Dr. Patrick Courtney
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Drones is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • medicines drone delivery
  • healthcare logistics
  • UAV for human health
  • medicines quality
  • medicines stability
  • drug packaging
  • medicines compliance

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Article
Quantifying the Effects of Vibration on Medicines in Transit Caused by Fixed-Wing and Multi-Copter Drones
Drones 2021, 5(1), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones5010022 - 13 Mar 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1254
Abstract
The concept of transporting medical products by drone is gaining a lot of interest amongst the medical and logistics communities. Such innovation has generated several questions, a key one being the potential effects of flight on the stability of medical products. The aims [...] Read more.
The concept of transporting medical products by drone is gaining a lot of interest amongst the medical and logistics communities. Such innovation has generated several questions, a key one being the potential effects of flight on the stability of medical products. The aims of this study were to quantify the vibration present within drone flight, study its effect on the quality of the medical insulin through live flight trials, and compare the effects of vibration from drone flight with traditional road transport. Three trials took place in which insulin ampoules and mock blood stocks were transported to site and flown using industry standard packaging by a fixed-wing or a multi-copter drone. Triaxial vibration measurements were acquired, both in-flight and during road transit, from which overall levels and frequency spectra were derived. British Pharmacopeia quality tests were undertaken in which the UV spectra of the flown insulin samples were compared to controls of known turbidity. In-flight vibration levels in both the drone types exceeded road induced levels by up to a factor of three, and predominant vibration occurred at significantly higher frequencies. Flown samples gave clear insulin solutions that met the British Pharmacopoeia specification, and no aggregation of insulin was detected. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics)
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Article
A Quickly Deployed and UAS-Based Logistics Network for Delivery of Critical Medical Goods during Healthcare System Stress Periods: A Real Use Case in Valencia (Spain)
Drones 2021, 5(1), 13; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones5010013 - 17 Feb 2021
Viewed by 1296
Abstract
On the one hand, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) have experienced great applicability surge in the recent years, arising as a promising technology with a wide field of use. On the other hand, healthcare, a critical system in modern society, is subject to a [...] Read more.
On the one hand, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) have experienced great applicability surge in the recent years, arising as a promising technology with a wide field of use. On the other hand, healthcare, a critical system in modern society, is subject to a heavy and unexpected pressure in the case of situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This article aims to leverage the flexibility of UASs as complementary support for healthcare logistic systems when under high-stress conditions, via quick deployment of an air delivery network. We have defined a logistics network model and created three scenarios based on the model and current needs in Valencia (Spain). Flight tests have been performed in these scenarios, which include urban areas and controlled airspace. Operations complied with requirements derived from the application of Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) methodology, recently adopted by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Flights were successful, being able to swiftly deliver medical goods without requiring any dedicated infrastructure. However, a moderate number of contingencies took place during the tests, mainly related to control link quality and Air Traffic Management (ATM) integration, forcing the use of dedicated procedures to cope with them. Although additional development is required to ensure the safety of large-scale automated operations, the use of UASs as part of logistic networks is a feasible means to support existing structures, especially in situations in dire need. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics)
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Article
An Evaluation of the Drone Delivery of Adrenaline Auto-Injectors for Anaphylaxis: Pharmacists’ Perceptions, Acceptance, and Concerns
Drones 2020, 4(4), 66; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones4040066 - 09 Oct 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2265
Abstract
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition where delays in medical treatment can be fatal. Such situations would benefit from the drone delivery of an adrenaline auto-injector such as EpiPen®. This study evaluates the potential risk, reward, and impact of drone transportation on [...] Read more.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition where delays in medical treatment can be fatal. Such situations would benefit from the drone delivery of an adrenaline auto-injector such as EpiPen®. This study evaluates the potential risk, reward, and impact of drone transportation on the stability of adrenaline during episodes of anaphylaxis. Further, this study examines pharmacists’ perceptions on drone delivery—pharmacists approved the use of drones to deliver EpiPen® during emergencies but had concerns with drone safety and supply chain security. Laboratory simulated onboard drone conditions reflected typical missions. In these experiments, in vitro model and pharmaceutical equivalent formulations were subjected independently to 30 min vibrations at 5, 8.43, and 13.33 Hz, and temperature storage at 4, 25, 40, and 65 °C for 0, 0.5, 3, and 24 h. The chiral composition (an indicator of chemical purity that relates to molecular structure) and concentration of these adrenaline formulations were determined using ultraviolet (UV) and circular dichroism spectroscopy (CD). Adrenaline intrinsic stability was also explored by edge-of-failure experimentation to signpost the uppermost limits for safe transportation. During drone flight with EpiPen®, the temperature and vibration g-force were 10.7 °C and 1.8 g, respectively. No adverse impact on adrenaline was observed during drone flight and laboratory-simulated conditions shown by conformation to the British Pharmacopeia standards (p > 0.05 for CD and UV). This study showed that drone delivery of EpiPen® is feasible. There are more than 15,000 community pharmacies and ≈9000 GP surgeries spanning the UK, which are likely to provide achievable ranges and distances for the direct drone delivery of EpiPen®. The authors recommend that when designing future missions, in addition to medicine stability testing that models the stresses imposed by drone flight, one must conduct a perceptions survey on the relevant group of medical professionals, because their insights, acceptance, and concerns are extremely valuable for the design and evaluation of the mission. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics)
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Article
Context-Specific Challenges, Opportunities, and Ethics of Drones for Healthcare Delivery in the Eyes of Program Managers and Field Staff: A Multi-Site Qualitative Study
Drones 2020, 4(3), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones4030044 - 17 Aug 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1872
Abstract
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, have significant potential in the healthcare field. Ethical and practical concerns, challenges, and complexities of using drones for specific and diverse healthcare purposes have been minimally explored to date. This paper aims to document and [...] Read more.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, have significant potential in the healthcare field. Ethical and practical concerns, challenges, and complexities of using drones for specific and diverse healthcare purposes have been minimally explored to date. This paper aims to document and advance awareness of diverse context-specific concerns, challenges, and complexities encountered by individuals working on the front lines of drones for health. It draws on original qualitative research and data from semi-structured interviews (N = 16) with drones for health program managers and field staff in nine countries. Directed thematic analysis was used to analyze interviews and identify key ethical and practical concerns, challenges, and complexities experienced by participants in their work with drones for health projects. While some concerns, challenges, and complexities described by study participants were more technical in nature, for example, those related to drone technology and approval processes, the majority were not. The bulk of context-specific concerns and challenges identified by participants, we propose, could be mitigated through community engagement initiatives. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics)
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Review

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Review
How Do Dangerous Goods Regulations Apply to Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles Transporting Medical Cargos?
Drones 2021, 5(2), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones5020038 - 13 May 2021
Viewed by 660
Abstract
Commercial operations of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) are expanding, with medical logistics using UAVs as part of health service supply chains being targeted. The ability to transport cargos that include items classified as Dangerous Goods (DG) is a significant factor in [...] Read more.
Commercial operations of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) are expanding, with medical logistics using UAVs as part of health service supply chains being targeted. The ability to transport cargos that include items classified as Dangerous Goods (DG) is a significant factor in enabling UAV logistics to assist medical supply chains, but DG regulations for air transport have developed from the perspective of crewed aircraft and not UAVs. This paper provides an important audit of the current DG regulations, best practice in their application and the development of much-needed new governance that will be required to fully exploit UAVs for the safe transport of DG in medical logistics. Findings from the audit provide a summary of the circumstances and potential challenges resulting from the application of DG regulations as they stand to UAV operations, particularly for medical logistics, and convenient guidance on the practical implications of DG regulations for UAV operators. The main conclusion is that this is an under-researched domain, not yet given full consideration in a holistic way by regulators, governments, industry bodies, practitioners or academia. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics)
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Review
The Application of Drones in Healthcare and Health-Related Services in North America: A Scoping Review
Drones 2020, 4(3), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones4030030 - 04 Jul 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2765
Abstract
Using drone aircraft to deliver healthcare and other health-related services is a relatively new application of this technology in North America. For health service providers, drones represent a feasible means to increase their efficiency and ability to provide services to individuals, especially those [...] Read more.
Using drone aircraft to deliver healthcare and other health-related services is a relatively new application of this technology in North America. For health service providers, drones represent a feasible means to increase their efficiency and ability to provide services to individuals, especially those in difficult to reach locations. This paper presents the results of a scoping review of the research literature to determine how drones are used for healthcare and health-related services in North America, and how such applications account for human operating and machine design factors. Data were collected from PubMed, CINAHL, Scopus, Web of Science, and IEEE Xplore using a block search protocol that combined 13 synonyms for “drone” and eight broad terms capturing healthcare and health-related services. Four-thousand-six-hundred-and-sixty-five documents were retrieved, and following a title, abstract, and full-text screening procedure completed by all authors, 29 documents were retained for analysis through an inductive coding process. Overall, findings indicate that drones may represent a financially feasible means to promote healthcare and health-related service accessibility for those in difficult-to-reach areas; however, further work is required to fully understand the costs to healthcare organizations and the communities they serve. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics)
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Other

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Technical Note
Operational Study of Drone Spraying Application for the Disinfection of Surfaces against the COVID-19 Pandemic
Drones 2021, 5(1), 18; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones5010018 - 07 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1462
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to maximize the cleanliness of outside public services and the need to disinfect these areas to reduce the virus transmission. This work evaluates the possibilities of using unmanned aircraft systems for disinfection tasks in these aeras. [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to maximize the cleanliness of outside public services and the need to disinfect these areas to reduce the virus transmission. This work evaluates the possibilities of using unmanned aircraft systems for disinfection tasks in these aeras. The operational study focuses on evaluating the static and dynamic behavior, as well as the influence of the flying height, mission speed and flow of spraying. The most recommended height for correct spraying with the drone system under study is 3.0 m. The dynamic test shows that the lower height, 3.0 m, also provides the most adequate spraying footprint, achieving 2.2 m for a speed of 0.5 m/s. The operational behavior is evaluated on three different scenarios, a skatepark with an area around 882.7 m2, an outdoor gym with an area around 545.0 m2 and a multisport court with an area around 2025.7 m2. The cleaning time evaluates the flying duration, battery change and tank refill and results in 41 min for the skatepark (5 tank refills and 2 battery changes), 28.6 min for the outdoor gym (3 tank refills and 2 battery changes) and 96.4 min for the multisport court (11 tank refills and 5 battery changes). Each battery change and each tank refill are estimated to take 4 min each, with a drone autonomy of 7 min. The technology appears competitive compared to other forms of cleaning based, for example, on human operators. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics)
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Letter
Insights Before Flights: How Community Perceptions Can Make or Break Medical Drone Deliveries
Drones 2020, 4(3), 51; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones4030051 - 30 Aug 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3517
Abstract
Drones are increasingly used to transport health products, but life-saving interventions can be stalled if local community concerns and preferences are not assessed and addressed. In order to inform the introduction of drones in new contexts, this paper analyzed similarities and differences in [...] Read more.
Drones are increasingly used to transport health products, but life-saving interventions can be stalled if local community concerns and preferences are not assessed and addressed. In order to inform the introduction of drones in new contexts, this paper analyzed similarities and differences in community perceptions of medical delivery drones in Malawi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Dominican Republic (DR). Community perceptions were assessed using focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informant interviews (KIIs) conducted with stakeholders at the national level, at health facilities and in communities. Data were collected on respondents’ familiarity with drones, perceptions of benefits and risks of drones, advice on drone operations and recommendations on sharing information with the community. The comparative analysis found similar perceptions around the potential benefits of using drones, as well as important differences in the perceived risks of flying drones and culturally appropriate communication mechanisms based on the local context. Because community perceptions are heavily influenced by culture and local experiences, a similar assessment should be conducted before introducing drone activities in new areas and two-way feedback channels should be established once drone operations are established in an area. The extent to which a community understands and supports the use of drones to transport health products will ultimately play a critical role in the success or failure of the drone’s ability to bring life-saving products to those who need them. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Medicine Delivery and Healthcare Logistics)
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