Drones, also known as unmanned aerial systems, will change the face of many industries and may in many ways affect how our society functions. They can give us a new perspective on the world around us and go places that are hard to reach, dangerous, or challenging to pass through. For medicine, drones may end up ferrying diagnostic tests, drugs, and life saving devices to patients far away from clinical facilities that require urgent care. Now a new study published in journal PLOS ONE aims to answer whether drones are a practical way of transporting lab specimens for analysis to distant clinics.
The researchers took chemistry, hematology, and coagulation specimens from 56 adults and flew half the samples on a drone while the others remained on the ground. Some of the samples flew for only six minutes, while others were in the air for almost 40. The results from the samples were compared against each other, essentially showing that there’s little difference in quality of samples that took flight.
Here’s a more comprehensive summary of the study findings:
Results from flown and stationary sample pairs were similar for all 33 analytes. Bias and intercepts were <10% and <13% respectively for all analytes. Bland-Altman comparisons showed a mean difference of 3.2% for Glucose and <1% for other analytes. Only bicarbonate did not meet the strictest (Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia Quality Assurance Program) performance criteria. This was due to poor precision rather than bias. There were no systematic differences between laboratory-derived (analytic) CV’s and the CV’s of our flown versus terrestrial sample pairs however CV’s from the sample pairs tended to be slightly higher than analytic CV’s. The overall concordance, based on clinical stratification (normal versus abnormal), was 97%. Length of flight had no impact on the results.
Study in PLOS ONE: Can Unmanned Aerial Systems (Drones) Be Used for the Routine Transport of Chemistry, Hematology, and Coagulation Laboratory Specimens?