• S. Loesser

Will drones transport tissue samples to Euregional laboratories in the future?

Stadt Aachen, the Chair and Institute of Flight System Dynamics at RWTH Aachen University, flyXdrive GmbH and Droniq GmbH are cooperating in the European innovation project SAFIR-med – Safe and Flexible Integration of Advanced U-Space Service for Medical Air Mobility. The currently launched project is part of the Urban Air Mobility – UAM, an initiative of the MAHHL cities (Maastricht, Aachen, Hasselt, Heerlen and Liège). The aim is to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – UAVs – to transport medical supplies between hospitals in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine and thus support the healthcare delivery system.

SAFIR-med advances the Euregional UAM initiative

SAFIR-med is part of the activities coordinated by the Stadt Aachen for the UAM initiative of the MAHHL cities, in which applications of unmanned aerial systems through to air taxis are designed and demonstrated for the Euregio Meuse-Rhine’s residents. From the beginning, the focus has been on medical applications. Projects for transnational search and rescue flights (GrenzFlug) and AED transport in emergencies (RescueCopter) have already been successfully carried out.

Transporting urgent goods

UAVs are emerging as a promising solution for the fast and reliable transport of medical supplies. Compared to ground-based transport options, they have a higher efficiency. Delays due to traffic jams or diversions are eliminated. Medical goods such as banked blood and tissue samples, for which transport is sometimes very time-critical, can therefore be delivered faster and with greater punctuality by a drone.

Emergency care across national borders

As part of the SAFIR-med innovation project, the conditions under which fast, safe and efficient emergency care can become a life-saving routine, even across national borders, are now to be researched. Therefore, RWTH and flyXdrive are investigating how UAVs can fly safely and reliably over longer distances in a fully automated manner, even in difficult weather conditions, day and night. In cooperation with the aviation authorities from Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, the flight systems and their flight routes are being adapted to meet all European and national requirements regarding safety, privacy and environmental protection.

All flights in the MAHHL region are continuously monitored by the Frankfurt-based Droniq GmbH, partly with the partners’ support from Belgium and the Netherlands. This is made possible by the use of the Droniq UTM, a traffic management system for drones that provides the pilot on the ground with a combined recognized air picture from manned and unmanned aircrafts. This demonstration ensures that the UAVs are no danger to aircrafts or helicopters. Beyond Germany, a corresponding procedure across national borders is ensured with other project partners from the Netherlands and Belgium.

Residents’ laboratory OecherLab

Stadt Aachen will present the project’s contents in the newly opened residents' laboratory OecherLab. During the planned events, among others, the potentials as well as topics such as the protection of privacy, which come up as a result of the air traffic, should be discussed. As the UAM-MAHHL initiative’s coordinator, Stadt Aachen is also taking care of the necessary exchange between the hospitals selected for the demonstration, namely the RWTH Aachen University Hospital, the Zuyderland Medical Center in Heerlen and the Maastricht University Medical Centre.


Project partners are: Stadt Aachen, RWTH Aachen University Chair and Institute of Flight System Dynamics, flyXdrive, Droniq, Future Needs Management Consulting, Skeyes, Unifly, AgentFly Technologies, Hellenic U-Space Institute, SkeyDrone, NSX, INVOLI, TU Delft MAVlab, HyFly, SABCA and EHang. The consortium is coordinated by the Belgian company Helicus. The project is funded within the framework of Horizon 2020, the European Union's research and innovation programme.

More information and news about the project can be found at www.safir-med.eu

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