World’s first documented drone delivery of insulin happened in Ireland

The international medical team that accomplished the world's first documented drone delivery of insulin for a patient living in a remote community described the project in an ENDO 2020 abstract that will be published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.

The 16-minute test flight from Galway, , to the Aran Islands about 12 miles off the west coast of Ireland took place Sept. 13 last year, according to the drone project's principal investigator, Derek O'Keeffe, M.D., Ph.D., a consultant endocrinologist at National University of Ireland Galway. O'Keeffe said that after severe storms disrupted healthcare access in Ireland in recent years, they wanted to find a solution for future disasters when people with diabetes in remote regions may be stranded for days without their lifesaving diabetes medicines.

“We now have the and protocols in place to deliver diabetes medications and supplies in an actual disaster if needed,” he said. “This is a milestone in improving patient care.”

The large autonomous (self-flying) drone flew “beyond visual line of sight” during commercial flight operations in regulated airspace, O'Keeffe said. The project team's yearlong planning required approvals from aviation, pharmaceutical, and clinical regulatory agencies.

Endocrinologist SpyridoulaMaraka, M.D., M.S., of the University of for Medical Sciences and the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, Little Rock, said the team had to address several healthcare delivery issues to send a prescription medicine via an unmanned aircraft operating a 4G cellular network using GPS waypoints.

“Insulin can be outside the fridge for hours, but it can't be exposed to extreme heat, so we put it in an insulated parcel with temperature monitoring en route,” Maraka said. “We also put a security lock on the parcel in case the drone did not arrive at the right place.”

Because legally a pharmacist must dispense a prescription drug, she arranged for a pharmacist to dispense the insulin and another diabetes medication, glucagon before loading them to the drone for delivery.

Another unique aspect of the project, according to Maraka, is that the drone returned with a blood sample collected from the patient for monitoring blood glucose control (HbA1c). “We wanted to find a way to monitor glycemic control remotely,” she said. “It was the full circle of care, which has not been done by drone before.”

Maraka stressed that this ability for remote diagnostics could save lives. “A patient with type 1 diabetes could develop life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis after more than one day without insulin,” she said. “A blood specimen would allow us to properly diagnose and treat the condition.”

For this project, Wingcopter provided the drone, Novo Nordisk served in an advisory role and Vodafone Ireland allowed use of its 4G network. The Endocrine Society, which is part of the U.S.-based Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition, offers tips on managing diabetes in an emergency.

World's First Documented Drone Delivery Of Insulin Happened In Ireland 1

The is the same unmanned aircraft that is also used by UPS.

World's first documented drone delivery of insulin

In the abstract it reads:

After Ireland experienced Storm Ophelia (Cat 3 Hurricane) in 2017 and then Storm Emma (Winter Blizzard) in 2018, many of our patients with Diabetes had issues with insulin supplies as they remained housebound due to subsequent flooding/snowdrifts. Diabetes Mellitus is one of the world's most common chronic diseases with approximately 400 million people affected. Insulin is often needed to achieve and maintain glycemic control and therefore is considered a lifesaving medication for patients with diabetes.3 Consequently, in order to ensure an adequate insulin supply method for patients, after a sentinel weather event, we developed a UAV delivery solution using a vertical take-off and landing () Wingcopter 178 drone which we operated under beyond visual line of sight () conditions. After a lengthy planning process, we ensured compliance with all Irish (European) Aviation Aerospace regulations. In addition we complied with regulations surrounding the dispensing of prescribed fridge medications. We had our maiden flight on September 13, 2019 from Galway, Ireland to the Aran Islands (20Km each way) delivering insulin from the pharmacist to the patient's clinician. This represents the first documented autonomous delivery of insulin for a patient with diabetes.

World's First Documented Drone Delivery Of Insulin Happened In Ireland 2

Discover more from DroneXL

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Get your Part 107 Certificate

Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.

pilot institute dronexl

Copyright © 2024. All rights reserved. The content, images, and intellectual property on this website are protected by copyright law. Reproduction or distribution of any material without prior written permission from is strictly prohibited. For permissions and inquiries, please contact us first.

FTC: is an Amazon Associate and uses affiliate links that can generate income from qualifying purchases. We do not sell, share, rent out, or spam your email.

Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

Articles: 3431

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.