The use of drones to transport medical samples is not a new phenomenon. In 2015 CSIRO focused their annual unmanned aerial vehicle challenge on transporting pathology samples in rural Queensland. Zipline, a Silicon Valley firm, uses drones to ferry supplies to hospitals and health centers across Rwanda.

But in what is being cited as a world-first, Swiss Post has been testing the use of drones to transport laboratory samples in an urban area. The logistics company has operated more than 70 test flights since mid-March between two hospitals in the city of Lugano.  They hope that this will be a regular service by as soon as 2018.

The increased risk of civilian injury makes operating drones in towns and cities more challenging than in a rural setting. But transporting medical packages has proved to be a perfect scenario for drones. Samples are lightweight and delivery is often time sensitive. Avoiding city traffic, for example, could be hugely beneficial to the efficiency of labs.

According to a press release from Swiss Post;

“The regular use of drones between the two hospitals will become an everyday occurrence. Trained hospital staff will be able to load the drone independently with a safety box (in which the lab samples are packaged) and launch the drone with a smartphone application. The drone will then fly autonomously along the predefined route to its destination, where the box will be received by another member of staff.”

Read more at The Verge.