Lifeline Drones creating drones for medical deliveries in disaster areas

From the Lifeline Drones website:

Lifeline Drones is a cost effective and scalable series of custom designed networked 3-D printed drones.

With a payload of 3 kilograms, the drones can carry lab samples and medications to areas that are normally hard to reach in the event of a medical emergency, natural disaster, or in areas where there is limited road access.

They'll be presenting at this year's Open Hardware Summit at MIT on September 6th.

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Comment by HeliStorm on July 29, 2013 at 11:50pm

I applaud the ingenuity, while questioning some of the practicality. Lab specimens, in particular, don't fare well in hostile environments. Placing them in a non-cooled, open-air canopy with no apparent vibration dampening does not seem the best of options. Although, as I learned a long time ago in disaster relief work...Semper Gumby...always flexible. I guess if there is no other option for moving your lab specimens, then have at it. '

Medications on the other hand, I can see this actually being useful.

Comment by u4eake on July 30, 2013 at 4:34am

Hmmm, I really like the idea, but a usefull payload of 3kg for that hexa seems like a lot, judging the size of it by the size of the containers in the middle.  Even if it's able to carry that payload, I don't think it will carry it very far :-)

But hey, the first planes weren't aerodynamically optimal or fuel efficient either, but they flew :-)

Comment by Gary Mortimer on July 30, 2013 at 4:58am

Well it actually comes down to the trained operators, by the time you teach somebody purchase the equipment and create and area to work it costs a fortune.

There was a trial here in South Africa in one example a 6km direct flight saved a 30km drive. But with only a few grams of payload. It could not beat a man in the van even though he took longer.

Lifting a NATO pallet should be the target. Wait hang on a solution is already out there and working very well.

There are also powered parachutes that do very well.

That's got 140kg on it

Comment by Gerard Toonstra on July 30, 2013 at 5:47am

There are areas which are significantly harder to penetrate for a fixed wing. This obviously has to land somewhere to either load or discharge and if the target area is in the middle of a forest, it becomes complicated very fast.

3kg payload seems a bit much for this machine indeed. I'd estimate this can lift 800g max.

They have to work hard to get more endurance. The motors are relatively heavy, the props *really* small and they're using 3 bladed props instead of more efficient 2-bladed ones.

Judging from the website, it's more like an academic exploration into the control of drones rather than an engineering focus on how to create a drone for this specific purpose. It sounds like they just picked some application and ran with it.

Comment by F1P on July 30, 2013 at 6:23am


"Through the AR.Drone API and the Vicon SDK wrapper in python, we are able to achieve absolute 3D positioning using a feedback loop.
Each drone has 6 passive optical markers that are tracked by 19 Vicon cameras.
With PID control for the feedback loop, we are able to improve accuracy and prevent oscillations.
The possibilities to integrate this framework into our latest prototype allows for the creation of a groundtruth for a control algorithm mainly
based on vision and using it as a starting environment for a reinforcement learning algorithm for control and stabilization."

Comment by Euan Ramsay on July 30, 2013 at 6:32am

This idea has promise, but I suspect the more practical delivery method will be by plane, rather than MR, especially in terrains where open ground is in abundance (eg Africa). Planes have range, they have payloads, they have less vibes, and payloads can be covered. Even the foam helps with temperature variances and UV.

Comment by Euan Ramsay on July 30, 2013 at 6:35am

Agree Gerard - it does look a bit like the solution came before the problem.

Personally, I'm an MR loyalist, but I do look on fixed winger's range and endurance with some envy...

Comment by Euan Ramsay on July 30, 2013 at 6:50am

@ Darrell:

I agree - the current levels of reliability are pretty poor. However, these are not new problems, and many other technology advances had the same teething problems. Take cars for example. They were hopelessly unreliable and dangerous in the early days. But now we have cars which only need an oil change and consumables in 100,000miles. Some don't even need the oil change now. Many drivers don't even check the engine at all between services, and only open the bonnet out of curiosity or to fill the windscreen washer fluid.


See also computers, washing machines, fridges, telephones etc etc.


Our industry will be the same. 20 years from now, we'll look back and wonder how on earth we managed to fly at all.

Comment by Marius van Rijnsoever on July 30, 2013 at 6:53am

I am a doctor and struggle to see how this would be helpful.

You need a doctor or nurse on the ground to assess the patients, having a multi-rotor fly in 800 grams of extra supply is nothing compared to the 20kg backpack that that person can carry. It would be much more useful to get a guy in a truck to drive over, or airdrop a pellet of stuff.

Flying out blood tubes is a bit useless as well. You still need the expertise and equipment on the ground and the test results are not likely to change acute management (diagnosis is made 70% on history, 20% exam and 10% on testing). Even if you manage to get a fancy positive test results, you won't be able to treat the patient adequately (you are somewhere in the bush with no equipment, which is why you need a quadcopter to fly out a sample).

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on July 30, 2013 at 7:18am

Euan, I actually don't think washing machines and fridges are good examples of modern day reliability.  Most barely make it out of the warranty period anymore  without breaking down.  They definitely don't last as long as they used to.


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