LVNL, ANWB, Altitude Angel and KPN establish digital corridor for medical delivery in the Netherlands

A collaboration between LVNL (Air Traffic Control the Netherlands), ANWB and KPN aims to establish a ‘digital corridor’ to enable medical drone flights between two Isala hospital locations in Zwolle and Meppel.

The digital corridor makes it possible for unmanned drones to fly in the same airspace as manned aircraft. In addition, the drone will communicate with an Unmanned Traffic Management System (UTM) during flight provided by Altitude Angel, making the flight more efficient, safer and at a longer distance. In the coming year, the parties will gain experience in deploying unmanned aircraft in the airspace. With this knowledge, drones can be used on a larger scale in the future, for example to get urgent transport of blood, medicines and other medical goods to their destination faster and cheaper, says the press release.

The first flights are planned for the first half of 2023 between two branches of Isala Hospital. Later this year, flights will also be carried out in other places, for example in the vicinity of Rotterdam. This will provide experience in busier airspace, due to the proximity of Rotterdam-The Hague Airport. By testing drone flights in two different types of airspace, experience is gained in both circumstances.

The three parties each make their own contribution from the collaboration, which is supported by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. As an air traffic control organization, LVNL has the expertise to set up the right infrastructure to allow manned and unmanned aviation to fly safely in the same airspace. The UTM technology for this is provided by Altitude Angel. The ANWB will carry out the medical drone transports under the name Medical Drone Service as operator. KPN is the partner in this partnership that provides connectivity and digital services, such as data provision for the route planner for drones, to enable drone flights. It involves data exchange, positioning and providing insight into the ground and air risk.

Medical Drone Services s a joint initiative of ANWB Medical Air Assistance and PostNL Health. Together with various healthcare partners such as Erasmus MC, Isala, Sanquin, Certe, Resultlab, Amsterdam UMC, St. Antonius and Accureon. Furthermore, Avy and KPN are involved as technical partners and research is being done into how drones can contribute to providing healthcare at the right place and time. The ambition of Medical Drone Service is to contribute to keeping healthcare accessible and available for the whole of the Netherlands. With the use of drones, the aim is to bring healthcare faster and closer to the patient and to connect healthcare institutions. This includes matters such as transporting blood, medications and diagnostic samples. The drone can fly the fastest and shortest possible route through the air.

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