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This sight could become commonplace in the future. Delivery drones do jobs faster and require fewer working hours.

Drones will soon be transporting medical samples

Young entrepreneurs are testing out drone transport of medical samples between two hospitals 100 kilometres apart.

The distance between Røros and Trondheim is about 100 kilometres as the crow flies. Three NTNU entrepreneurs want to use drones to transport medical samples between them.

Røros Hospital is a branch of St. Olavs Hospital in Trondheim. The hospital takes medical samples all the time, but these often have to be analysed in Trondheim.

Today, these medical samples are largely transported by car. But the two areas are 150 kilometres apart by road, and especially in winter the idea of another option is appealing for the transporters.

Entrepreneurs Herman Øie Kolden, Bernhard Paus Græsdal and Lars Erik Fagernæs are working on a solution.

Can make a difference

“We’re building something that can make a difference, and that can hopefully save lives and contribute to society. It’s really rewarding and motivating,” says Fagernæs.

The three entrepreneurs are nerds in the best sense of the word. They’re civil engineers with a somewhat greater than average interest in drones, and together they have complementary specialist expertise in physics, mathematics, cybernetics, robotics and computer science. They are a match that wasn’t created in heaven, but at NTNU.

Herman Øie Kolden, Bernhard Paus Græsdal and Lars Erik Fagernæs have found the start-up company Aviant. They aim to halve the time it takes to send medical samples between hospitals.

Test flight completed

In 2019, the three master’s students completed a study year abroad at MIT in Boston, with some of the most talented drone lecturers in the world. That experience sparked their idea to develop delivery drones.

They started the company Aviant. Not long afterwards, Aviant secured an agreement with St. Olavs Hospital to develop a solution for sending biological samples between the two hospitals.

“We use pre-built drones but replace most of the electronics with solutions we’ve developed,” says Fagernæs.

A test flight between the cities has already been completed. Using 4G, the drone flew a total of 120 kilometres at 120 metres above the ground. A drone can carry medical samples in half the time that a car requires – and can help save lives.

Strong confidence in the solution

Currently, an operator on the ground needs to follow the delivery drone on a screen during transport.

“But in the future, the idea is that this operator would be able to follow several drones at the same time. Then you save working hours in addition to delivery time,” Fagernæs says.

Numerous entities have expressed confidence in the solution. Innovation Norway has given them NOK 1.5 million (~EUR 147 000) in grant funding. The Research Council has contributed NOK 1 million (~EUR 98 000) in support of the start-up.

Other companies are thinking along the same lines. Fagernæs hopes they will be able to create a Norwegian collaboration and develop solutions that can compete with foreign actors.

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