Switzerland’s specialized medical drone transport company RigiTech is breaking new ground in France, where it has received the first-ever approval to fly regular beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights of patient samples and other materials between two French laboratories.
RigiTech received the waiver from French air regulator Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile, which joined with the company and several regional and local administrations in overseeing trials of the proposed BVLOS drone flights of lab tests and other medical deliveries. The Swiss company will operate those services for French healthcare firm Biogroup, providing aerial transport between facilities in Bourgoin-Jallieu and Tignieu-Jameyzieu in the central-east part of the country.
RigiTech’s open-ended approval for regular medical drone flights is the first BVLOS waiver of its kind in France, and one of only a few across the European Union.
Read: Drones to speed UK hospital transport of patient lab samples
That aerial rotation of UAV deliveries is a bi-directional version of similar plans afoot in the UK to fly lab samples between several hospitals located around Morcambe Bay. An even wider project is being mounted in Scotland to create a nation-wide drone delivery network to transport lab tests and medical supplies.
In work for Biogroup, RigiTech medical drones will initially fly the 17.6 km between the company’s two main facilities in the greater Lyon region, cutting the time required for road transport in half with 15 minute flights. The time gained is intended to speed sample analyses, and thereby permit doctors to prescribe any treatments necessary to patients all the faster.
RigiTech’s Eiger drone is designed and equipped to ensure cold-chain transportation of blood and biological samples, as well as other medical products including vaccines and medicines. The craft’s relatively large payload bay allows for efficient, and when needed, long-distance flights.
Read: Top UK drone organizations create forum to advance BVLOS flight
Indeed, in using the unprecedented BVLOS waiver in France to operate medical drone deliveries, RigiTech plans to lay the groundwork for a future network connecting the over 900 Biogroup clinics and laboratories in the country, as well as those in Spain and throughout Europe.
“Drone regulations in Europe are constantly evolving to increase flexibility for drone operations,” said Alejandro Del Estal, RigiTech’s head of operations at RigiTech after earning the BVLOS waiver. “But because of its novelty and differences from traditional aviation, the whole industry has yet much to learn. I’m very proud to have participated in this process. These authorizations are helping the whole industry to push the limits of what can be done, without compromising on safety.”