Sky’s the Limit for Medical Deliveries by Drone
Swiss startup Jedsy says UAVs can simplify and speed logistics for diagnostics and supplies with drones
A Swiss startup has developed a lightweight, autonomous drone designed specifically to speed the delivery of laboratory samples and medical supplies to where they are needed. Jedsy AG uses a customized docking station –– dubbed the Mailbox –– that can be mounted outside a building’s window or balcony where the glider, or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), can land and recharge.
Christian Bredemeier, Jedsy’s chief sales officer, spoke with Plastics Engineering at the recent CES 2024 show in Las Vegas about the concept and execution. The UAV has a wingspan of 39 inches, weighs 24 pounds when empty, and has a 5-pound payload. With a 60-mile range, it can withstand maximum wind speeds of 30 knots (34.5 mph). The electric vehicle also is capable of vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) and fixed-wing flight.
Leveraging lightweight foam
Germany’s Polyfoam Kautschuk GmbH molds the glider’s wings using a proprietary material from Sekisui Kasei Co. Ltd. Called Piocelan, Sekisui describes it “a foamed resin that has a highly optimized combination of polystyrene and polyolefin properties,” offering rigidity, expandability, heat insulation and excellent resistance to impacts, chemicals and wear.
Bredemeier said, “We have developed our own foam molds which are produced at Schaumaplast Group, among others.” Jedsy uses carbon fiber for its vertical props and its battery case. (This video shows the device in action.)
The insulated transport container, made of expanded polypropylene (EPP) foam, is a standardized size for contents such as blood samples. It maintains an internal temperature of +/-2° C per hour. Called a Vacuette Transport Box, it can store 40 tubes and offers precise fitting for transporting dangerous goods of UN 3373 Biological Substance Category B.
Malawi as a proving ground
Jedsy was founded in 2021 by aerospace visionary Herbert Weirather and three-time Aerobatic Helicopters World Cup champion Mirko Cesena. Their mantra: “Delivery when it matters.”
Since its inception, Jedsy has worked on this project with Labor Risch Laboratory –– a firm active in laboratory medical diagnostics in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In December 2021, Jedsy established a manufacturing operation in Malawi. There it leveraged the local workforce to produce gliders and mailboxes. At the same time, it worked to obtain the necessary permissions for aerial operations across the entire southeastern African nation.
In late 2022, Jedsy says it initiated a partnership with Malawi’s Ministry of Health. Under this arrangement, Jedsy has been actively transporting samples, medical supplies, and other vital materials between hospitals, health centers, and laboratories in the northern part of the country.
New German healthcare partner for medical delivery
In October Jedsy said it secured a multimillion-dollar deal with Asklepios Kliniken, a major medical provider in Germany. Asklepios and Medilys (one of its divisions that focuses on laboratory and diagnostic services) say they come together in this venture to revolutionize logistics. Founded in 1985, Asklepios boasts nearly 170 facilities and a workforce of more than 67,000 professionals.
The partners stated: “This noteworthy collaboration is set to bring about substantial changes in the medical supply delivery landscape, with far-reaching effects that extend beyond industries.”
Bredemeier said it costs about $50,000 for one of its UAVs, including the Mailbox docking station and related app and controller software. Or one can choose to pay by use instead. The cost is roughly 80 US cents per mile if the device is used a lot, or up to $2.00 a mile if used less often.