Use of drones in clinical microbiology and infectious diseases

The potential for drone use in clinical microbiology, infectious diseases and epidemiology is vast” Poljak and Šterbenc (20190.


Background: Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles are autonomous or remotely controlled multipurpose aerial vehicles driven by aerodynamic forces and capable of carrying a payload. Whereas initially used exclusively for military purposes, the use of drones has gradually spread into other areas. Given their great flexibility and favourable costs, the use of drones has also been piloted in various healthcare settings.

Objectives: We briefly summarize current knowledge regarding the use of drones in healthcare, focusing on infectious diseases and/or microbiology when applicable.

Sources: Information was sought through PubMed and extracted from peer-reviewed literature published between January 2010 and August 2019 and from reliable online news sources. The search terms ‘drones’, ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’, ‘microbiology’ and ‘medicine’ were used.

Content: Peer-reviewed literature on the use of drones in healthcare has steadily increased in recent years. Drones have been successfully evaluated in various pilot programmes and are already implemented in some settings for transporting samples and delivering blood, vaccines, medicines, organs, life-saving medical supplies and equipment. In addition, a promising proof-of-concept ‘lab-on-a-drone’ was recently presented, as well as several pilot studies showing the benefits of drone use in surveillance and epidemiology of infectious diseases.

Implications: The potential for drone use in clinical microbiology, infectious diseases and epidemiology is vast. Drones may help to increase access to healthcare for individuals that might otherwise not benefit from appropriate care due to remoteness and lack of infrastructure or funds. However, factors such as national airspace legislation and legal medical issues, differences in topography and climates, cost-effectiveness, and community attitudes and acceptance in different cultures and societies currently impede the widespread use of drones. Significant cost savings compared with ground transportation, speed and convenience of delivery, and the booming drone sector will probably drive drone implementation in various areas of medicine in the next 5 years.

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Poljak, M. and Šterbenc, A. (2019) Use of drones in clinical microbiology and infectious diseases: current status, challenges and barriers. Clinical Microbiology and Infection. September 28th. DOI: .

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