Drones may be used to fly blood to hospitals in Palo Alto

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Drones delivering blood? The city of Palo Alto is attempting to be the first in the United States to do this. Stanford Blood Center is partnering with a drone company to try to make that happen if the FAA allows it.

Drones are already being used in Switzerland to deliver blood from one medical facility to another. The company behind it is Matternet in Menlo Park. The company has a slick video demonstrating how blood or medical samples can be put into box and with a push of a button be flown autonomously by a drone. Stanford Blood Center wants to do the same. "We would use a drone to deliver blood from Stanford Blood Center about 3.5 miles to Stanford Hospital down the road," Medical Director at Stanford Blood Center Tho Pham, M.D. said.

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Doctors say it can take 30 minutes to an hour to transport blood to the blood center to here at Stanford Hospital. Using a drone to deliver would take 10 minutes. The delivery would be dropped at a receiving station that would be located in a hospital parking lot or area convenient for medical staff to access. "With a system like this, you're able to save tremendous amount of time and generally reduce waste throughout the hospital system," Matternet CEO Andreas Rappopoulous said.

The FAA recently announced it will select a small number of pilot projects that would help the integration of drones. Palo Alto's City Manager says they've submitted their application and are excited the program could potentially happen in what is considered the birth place of Silicon Valley. "We saw it as a really opportune moment to be potentially on the front end of developing policy that could affect cities in the future," Palo Alto's City Manager James Keene said.

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Doctors said if approved, the drones would be used to fly blood in emergencies where time is critical and they don't have enough staff to transport supplies quickly. Stanford is hopeful the project is chosen. The FAA is expected to make a decision within the next 90 days.

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