Dutch Air Traf­fic Con­trol LVNL, Dutch Auto­mo­bile Asso­ci­a­tion ANWB, and Land­line and Mobile Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­ny KPN, have joined forces to work towards a com­mon goal – to enable drones and manned air­craft to fly safe­ly through the skies, reports a press release.

A tri­al using a dig­i­tal drone cor­ri­dor will begin this year, allow­ing med­ical deliv­er­ies to fly between two loca­tions of the Isala hos­pi­tal in the towns of Zwolle and Mep­pel for the urgent trans­port of blood, med­i­cines and diag­nos­tic sam­ples. A dis­tance of around 20 kms.

The dig­i­tal high­way marks the next step in allow­ing manned and unmanned air­craft to fly along­side each oth­er safe­ly in Dutch air­space, open­ing up more space for drone flights in the near future.

Present­ly, air­space is not designed or allo­cat­ed for BVLOS (Beyond Visu­al Line of Sight) drone flights. Laws and reg­u­la­tions are still evolv­ing, there­fore, drone oper­a­tors are required to apply for per­mis­sion well in advance to fly a craft in con­trolled air­space.

The release explains, “The dig­i­tal cor­ri­dor cre­ates space for unmanned drones in a part of the air­space where manned air­craft oper­ate. Drones will also be able to com­mu­ni­cate with an unmanned traf­fic man­age­ment sys­tem (UTM) dur­ing flight, mak­ing them more effi­cient, safer, and able to fly longer dis­tances.”

The three part­ners are to spend the next year gain­ing expe­ri­ence of fly­ing unmanned air­craft in air­space. The data gained will pave the way for more wide­spread use of drones in the future, whether it is for trans­port­ing blood in emer­gen­cies or for deliv­er­ing med­i­cines and oth­er med­ical sup­plies faster and more cost-effec­tive­ly.

The first tri­als are to be sched­uled short­ly between the two Isala hos­pi­tals. Lat­er this year, flights will also take place in oth­er loca­tions, for exam­ple near the Rot­ter­dam-Hague Air­port, to gain expe­ri­ence of busy air­space. Test­ing drones in two dif­fer­ent types of air­space will pro­vide valu­able insights.

Each of the three part­ners is mak­ing its own con­tri­bu­tion to the col­lab­o­ra­tion, that is sup­port­ed by the Min­istry of Infra­struc­ture and Water Man­age­ment. LVNL has the nec­es­sary exper­tise to build the right infra­struc­ture, where the UTM tech­nol­o­gy required will be pro­vid­ed by UK-based Alti­tude Angel. ANWB is to oper­ate the drones under the name ‘Med­ical Drone Ser­vice’. KPN is pro­vid­ing con­nec­tiv­i­ty and dig­i­tal ser­vices includ­ing data for the drone route plan­ner, so that flights can go ahead. This includes data exchange, loca­tion track­ing and insight into ground and air risks.

Avy Drone (cred­it Avy)


The Med­ical Drone Ser­vice is a joint ini­tia­tive of ANWB Med­ical Air Assis­tance and PostNL Health who are work­ing along­side sev­er­al health­care part­ners includ­ing Eras­mus MC, Isala, San­quin, Certe, Result­lab, Ams­ter­dam UMC, St. Anto­nius hos­pi­tal and Accure­on.

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The Avy drone com­pa­ny and KPN are also involved as tech­ni­cal part­ners and are explor­ing how the craft can be used to deliv­er health­care to the right place at the right time.

The release explains, “Med­ical Drone Service’s ambi­tion is to con­tribute to the con­tin­ued acces­si­bil­i­ty and avail­abil­i­ty of health­care for every­one in the Nether­lands. The aim is to use drones to bring this faster and clos­er to the patient and to con­nect health­care facil­i­ties, for exam­ple by trans­port­ing blood, med­i­cines, and diag­nos­tic sam­ples, where the drone can take the fastest and short­est route through the skies.

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(Top image: Avy Drone in Flight — cred­it Avy)