By Nina Mulamba
Kenya will soon adopt the use of drones as a means of transporting crucial medicine or delicate samples for lab testing in both remote and urban areas.
Transportation of lab samples and patients in critical condition in Kenya is usually conducted by vehicles, motorcycles or planes; however, it has been a challenge especially in remote areas and urban settings such as Nairobi and Mombasa due to the presence of heavy traffic which results in late delivery of the samples and the patients.
A new research study conducted by American and Ugandan researchers, John Hopkins and Timothy Amukele respectively, found out that drones can transport delicate samples for laboratory testing from all areas without damaging the samples.
The researchers took over 300 samples of blood (six each from 56 volunteers) and had one set of the samples transported by a hand-tossed drone while the other set was not transported at all (Control sample).
After their drone flight the samples were unloaded, then all the samples, including the ones that didn’t take a trip on the drone, were driven back to the hospital for testing. There were no differences between both sets of samples.
“Drones can come in handy in urgent transportation of samples for lab testing or delivery of crucial drugs in remote locations which are difficult to access by other means of transport such as Northern Kenya,” said the Group CEO of Pathologists Lancet Kenya and University of Nairobi Honorary Lecturer, Dr Ahmed Kalebi.
He added that, “in urban settings, drones will still be useful because they are not affected by traffic congestion that negatively affects road transport. They can deliver samples for lab testing or drugs without much delay.”
This will improve the time taken in transportation of lab samples and drugs in Kenya, improve on the accuracy of the results of the samples and also help save the lives of countless people in need of the services.
Dr. Kalebi also said that the prices of drones are expected to drop even further due to the fact that they are being manufactured in large-scale, making them affordable for use in health care settings in Kenya.
Countries such as Haiti, Papua-New Guinea and the Philippines have been using drones to transport medical samples and supplies and also to help rescue natural disaster victims.