Drones in medicine-The rise of the machines

Int J Clin Pract. 2017 Sep;71(9). doi: 10.1111/ijcp.12989. Epub 2017 Aug 29.


This is a medical kitty hawk moment. Drones are pilotless aircrafts that were initially used exclusively by the military but are now also used for various scientific purposes, public safety, and in commercial industries. The healthcare industry in particular can benefit from their technical capabilities and ease of use. Common drone applications in medicine include the provision disaster assessments when other means of access are severely restricted; delivering aid packages, medicines, vaccines, blood and other medical supplies to remote areas; providing safe transport of disease test samples and test kits in areas with high contagion; and potential for providing rapid access to automated external defibrillators for patients in cardiac arrest. Drones are also showing early potential to benefit geriatric medicine by providing mobility assistance to elderly populations using robot-like technology. Looking further to the future, drones with diagnostic imaging capabilities may have a role in assessing health in remote communities using telemedicine technology. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in the European Union are some examples of legislative bodies with regulatory authority over drone usage. These agencies oversee all technical, safety, security and administrative issues related to drones. It is important that drones continue to meet or exceed the requirements specified in each of these regulatory areas. The FAA is challenged with keeping pace legislatively with the rapid advances in drone technology. This relative lag has been perceived as slowing the proliferation of drone use. Despite these regulatory limitations, drones are showing significant potential for transforming healthcare and medicine in the 21st century.

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft* / instrumentation
  • Aircraft* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Emergency Medical Services / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Relief Work* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Rural Health Services* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Telemedicine / instrumentation
  • Telemedicine / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • United States