Shenzhen enhances first aid with 5G-powered drone system for blood delivery

The drone service is a boon to patients whose urgent need for blood transfusion is occasionally hampered by heavy traffic in a megapolis like Shenzhen, with a population of 17.66 million as of 2023.

Shenzhen launched on January 19 the nation’s first 5G-powered drone delivery platform for the transportation of blood products during emergencies, in a bid to improve first aid.

The platform was developed by the southern city’s blood center and the local subsidiary of China Telecom (中国电信), one of China’s three state-run mobile network operators.

The city put in place a trial operation from August 21 to December 31, 2023, to test the platform.

During this period, it dispatched 203 drone flights that carried blood products weighing 434kg.

The drone service is a boon to patients whose urgent need for blood transfusion is occasionally hampered by heavy traffic in a megapolis like Shenzhen, with a population of 17.66 million as of 2023.

Image credit: Photo courtesy of Health Commission of Shenzhen

Drastically shortened time

In an instance of its benefits, drone delivery drastically shortened the time needed to transport bags of blood from a hospital in Luohu, a district of Shenzhen, to a victim of hemorrhaging due to ruptured spleen.

The drone cut the journey from normally 60 minutes by road to nine minutes, which proved critical to saving the life of the patient in question.

At a ceremony marking the launch of the platform, Ning Li, the Party chief and director of the blood center, said it’s a race against time to save lives.

“Establishing such an aerial life-saving drone path will greatly bolster the ability of a metropolis like Shenzhen to ensure blood supply during emergencies and provide the fastest aid possible to patients in critical need of blood transfusion,” he noted.

Three hospitals have been included in the drone paths, with another four on their way to join them.

Shenzhen looks to extend the network to cover more medical institutions and conduct routine blood transportation on a wider scale.

Image credit: Photo courtesy of Health Commission of Shenzhen

Access to all data

According to local media reports, the platform incorporates a 5G wideband wireless network, AI and image recognition technologies.

They enable the drone to send back high-resolution videos and temperatures in real time, ensuring the quality of bagged blood in cold storage.

The platform also provides access to all the data generated throughout the flight, ranging from blood pick-up, flight path and in-flight status, to emergency dispatch and pick-up by hospitals.

What’s more, it is responsible for exercising oversight over firms tasked with transporting blood and plasma.

Given media photos, Phoenix Wings (丰翼无人机), a drone startup affiliated with SF Express (顺丰速运), a logistics giant, appears to be among the first firms taking part in the drive.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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