Medical drone BVLOS flight over urban area takes place in Belgium

In , the first medical drone flight over an urban area and out of sight of the pilot was carried out last Wednesday according to the new EASA rules. The flight was performed with an X-8 multicopter developed by SABCA with an integrated parachute. Together with operator Helicus, it took no less than three years to prepare this first demonstration flight.

First medical drone flight under EASA rules

A medical drone offers the promise of making healthcare logistics a lot more efficient and faster in the future. For example, emergency medical supplies, blood samples, and donated blood can be transported between hospitals and laboratories without experiencing road congestion. But then the drones must be able to fly over urban areas, and that has been a tricky point from a and regulatory point of view until now.

The new regulations offer the possibility to perform such drone flights, provided the operator takes the necessary mitigating measures and can thus demonstrate that the flights are performed safely. That is exactly what SABCA and Helicus have done. Based on a risk analysis according to the so-called SORA system, the preconditions for a BVLOS medical drone flight over urban areas were worked out. This was recently approved, after which an operational authorization was issued by the FPS Mobility.

On the basis of the brand new operating license, the first test flight over urban areas could take place last Wednesday. The drone flew between two hospitals in the center of Antwerp. The drone in question is an X-8 multicopter developed by SABCA with an integrated parachute according to the ASTM F3322-18 standard.

Medical Drone Bvlos Flight Over Urban Area Takes Place In Belgium
Part of the flight path above Antwerp. Source: SABCA/Helicus

Three pillars

In total, no less than three years have been spent on the elaboration of the SORA. It is based on the following three pillars:

  1. Combined measures to reduce the risk to people on the ground and in the air
  2. Risk mitigation based on the SABCA designed X-8 multicopter with an integrated parachute, according to ASTM F3322-18 standard specification
  3. Robust ground organization and an emergency plan (ERP).

According to the parties involved, the issued authorization will benefit the development and implementation of sustainable medical flights worldwide. In the short term, SABCA and Helicus will conduct more frequent drone flights between hospitals in the cities of Antwerp, Hasselt, and Ghent.

You can read more articles about drones being used for good here on DroneXL.

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Wiebe de Jager
Wiebe de Jager

Wiebe de Jager is the founder of Dronewatch and author of several bestselling books about drone photography. Wiebe is a certified drone pilot and has a full ROC license.

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