Drone transportation of blood products

Transfusion. 2017 Mar;57(3):582-588. doi: 10.1111/trf.13900. Epub 2016 Nov 11.


Background: Small civilian unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) are a novel way to transport small goods. To the best of our knowledge there are no studies examining the impact of drone transport on blood products, describing approaches to maintaining temperature control, or component physical characteristics during drone transport.

Study design and methods: Six leukoreduced red blood cell (RBC) and six apheresis platelet (PLT) units were split using sterile techniques. The larger parent RBC and PLT units, as well as six unthawed plasma units frozen within 24 hours of collection (FP24), were placed in a cooler, attached to the drone, and flown for up to 26.5 minutes with temperature logging. Ambient temperatures during the experimental window ranged between -1 and 18°C across 2 days. The difference between the ambient and unit temperatures was approximately 20°C for PLT and FP24 units. After flight, the RBC parent units were centrifuged and visually checked for hemolysis; the PLTs were checked for changes in mean PLT volumes (MPVs), pH, and PLT count; and the frozen air bubbles on the back of the FP24 units were examined for any changes in size or shape, as evidence of thawing.

Results: There was no evidence of RBC hemolysis; no significant changes in PLT count, pH, or MPVs; and no changes in the FP24 bubbles. The temperature of all units was maintained during transport and flight.

Conclusion: There was no adverse impact of drone transport on RBC, PLT, or FP24 units. These findings suggest that drone transportation systems are a viable option for the transportation of blood products.

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft*
  • Blood Platelets*
  • Blood Safety*
  • Erythrocytes*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Time Factors