Government-funded research project, Medifly, conducted test flights over Hamburg

Medifly ©Lufthansa Technik

The joint research project Medifly, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Transportation and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), successfully demonstrated the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for acute transportation of medical samples. A total of six drone flights were conducted between the German Armed Forces Hospital in Wandsbek-Gartenstadt and Saint Mary’s Hospital in Hohenfelde, roughly five kilometers (linear distance) apart from each other. The insight gained from these flights will lay the foundation for extended test operations over several months. The research goal of Medifly is to find out how far unmanned aircraft systems can be used to perform acute transports of medical samples in a safe and reliable manner.

As the drone flights not only conducted in a densely populated urban area, but also in the air traffic control zone of Hamburg’s international airport, a large number of safety measures had to be implemented. First, evidence had to be provided that automated flights in this complex environment and above highly-frequented traffic routes can be performed safely and reliably at any time. Thus, all parties involved had to invest several months of discussions and thorough planning to obtain the required flight approvals from the responsible authorities.

Several reknowned institutions have joined forces for the Medifly project: ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research, FlyNex, GLVI Gesellschaft für Luftverkehrsinformatik and Lufthansa Technik AG. Hamburg’s Authority for Economics, Transport and Innovation, as well as both hospitals involved, have joined Medifly as associate partners.

Based on the insight gained from these successful test flights, the partners intend to start an extended test flight campaign soon. This is expected to last several months in order to assess additional factors for an economically-viable utilization of the UAS technology.

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