Helicus Aero initiative will deliver medical supplies by drones around Antwerp

The Helicus Aero Initiative (HAI) is putting in place a system to transport medical supplies by drones between hospitals and laboratories/pharmacies. The project, named MEDRONA, was selected for funding by the federal government. Inter hospital test flights will take place during the second part of 2019 in Antwerp urban airspace.

The aim of MEDRONA is to demonstrate a system that is able to transport medical parcels (e.g. human tissue, blood & urine samples and pharmacy preparations) in a reliable, ecological and efficient way. The project is designed to structurally expand today’s modal mix, taking traffic away from congested roads and using the underutilized capacity in the Very Low Level (VLL) airspace (between ground and 150 meters high).  Five companies have joined forces in this project: Belgocontrol, SABCA, Unifly, NSX and Helicus.  Each company will focus on a specific part of the overall solution.

“Rather than setting up simple flights between hospitals, the project will offer sustainable solutions that are fully compliant with both air traffic management and healthcare regulations.  This service will enable hospitals to maintain high-quality services to their patients in times of congested road transport”, explains Mikael Shamim, Coordinator of the Helicus Aero Initiative. 

The project was selected out of 136 candidate projects within the frame of Smart Mobility Belgium (SMB). SMB is a joint initiative of the Belgian federal minsters of Transport and Communication for projects aiming at smart and innovative mobility applications. It has a budget of 4 million euro. SMB will provide support to MEDRONA which constitutes the second phase of the Helicus Aero Initiative (HAI). This phase aims to build safety assessments for specific inter hospital flight corridors.  A series of test flights in 2019 should allow to obtain the regulatory approval for the future exploitation of the medical drone transport system in Antwerp.

“We are very proud to be part of one of the selected projects. It underlines the interest that is expressed at different government levels and the growing belief that drones can bring a positive impact to society at large and its mobility challenges in particular,” says Hendrik-Jan Van Der Gucht, Manager Innovation at Belgocontrol, the Belgian Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP).

(Image: The MEDRONA partners (from the left to the right): Alex Shaposhnik (SABCA), Hendrik-Jan Van Der Gucht (Belgocontrol), Pieter Vandenbussche (Baloise), Mikael Shamim (Helicus), Jürgen Verstaen (Unifly), Jan Verelst (NSX), Steven Wille (SABCA) and Jean-Pierre De Muyt (Belgocontrol))

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