North American professional drone maker Draganfly has sent the first of nearly a dozen humanitarian drones to the non-profit Ukraine organization Revived Soldiers Ukraine (RSU) in Europe, to be used to deliver insulin to hard-to-reach hospitals in the war-torn country.
RSU has ordered 200 medical response drones from Draganfly, each costing $30,000 and equipped with temperature-managed payload boxes that can transport up to 35 pounds of blood, pharmaceuticals, insulin/medicines, vaccines, and wound care kits, the drone maker said. Because insulin is a temperature-sensitive product, quick and safe transportation is a top priority.
There are roughly 2.3 million people living with diabetes in Ukraine, according to the International Diabetes Association, many of whom have Type 1 diabetes and require multiple daily injections of insulin to survive. For those living in high-conflict areas of the country, access to life-saving insulin is limited or non-existent.
Draganfly's drones are equipped with temperature-managed payload boxes that can transport blood, pharmaceuticals, insulin/medicines, vaccines, water, and wound care kits.
Also aiding in the delivery of medical supplies in Ukraine is Coldchain Delivery Systems, a Spring Branch, TX-based company that provides logistics services and connected RSU with Draganfly to deliver the medical equipment to people in besieged areas.
Because Draganfly's drones are equipped with thermal cameras, they can "look through debris to see if there are heat signatures, meaning a warm body,'' according to CEO Cameron Chell.
So far, RSU has purchased 10 drones and Draganfly has donated three, he said. There are three types of Draganfly drones being sent to Europe, ranging in price from $7,500 to $30,000, Chell said.
Other organizations have reached out to offer to provide insulin and other medical suppies, and "We're going to work with Revived Soldiers Ukraine and help them continue to do what it takes to accept donations and let people be involved,'' he said. "I suspect it will become a long-term thing for us."
After seeing how Draganfly's advanced drones were being used to deliver temperature-sensitive medical supplies and to assist search-and-rescue operations, "We knew they would be invaluable to our crews on the ground,'' said RSU president Iryna Vashchuk Discipio. She added that Draganfly is providing its drones at cost.
"Draganfly's medical response, search and rescue, and situational assessment drones are crucial for saving lives in Ukraine,'' Vashchuk Discipio said. "These drones will help our crews safely access hotspots and provide humanitarian aid in major Ukrainian cities including Kyiv and Kharkiv."
RSU received the first drone from Draganfly in Poland on May 1. The organization transported it to Ukraine, where its experienced pilots conducted virtual training with drone operators, she said.
Next, Draganfly will send two situational assessment drones the company is also donating to RSU, Vashchuk Discipio said. Those drones are lightweight, automated, and capable of providing high-resolution optical and thermal imaging during critical operations, she said.
Coldchain's role is to work closely with Draganfly to ensure the company's drones are successfully delivered to RSU, said Wayne Williams, the company's founder and executive director. Prior to the war in Ukraine, Coldchain and Draganfly worked with emergency medical personnel in Texas t0 develop protocols and procedures for how to properly pilot drones and handle deliveries during active emergency, medical and disaster response situations, he said.
"The situation in Ukraine continues to change rapidly,'' Williams said. "The entire team at Coldchain Delivery Systems is committed to providing affected Ukrainians with the support they need as quickly as possible."
Other U.S.-based drone companies are also aiding in the Ukraine war effort, including BRINC Drones of Seattle, which has donated 10 of its short-range reconnaissance LEMUR drones. The company has orders for an additional 50 drones, which are being purchased by other NATO countries and donated to Ukraine, BRINC founder and CEO Blake Resnick recently told drone business publication dronelife.
Hartford, CT-based Aquiline Drones (AD) has teamed up with Ukraine's local Jewish community to make an initial donation of 40 of its Spartacus Hurricane drones for first-responder, emergency, urgent supply, and site assessment use.
"Drones have long been in demand by various departments responsible for civilians' safety, so why not put their potential power directly into the hands of the Ukraine citizens?" said Barry Alexander, founder and chairman of AD, in a statement in March. Alexander also called on the greater Jewish community and general business population to support his mission by purchasing and donating Spartacus Hurricane and Spartacus Max commercial drones (designed for the delivery of vital organs, human tissue, and blood supplies, and retailing for about $26,000 each) at [email protected].
In February, shortly after the war began, Ukraine's defense ministry called upon residents of Kyiv who owned civilian drones to use them to monitor the Russian army in that city, but warned that flying them is not without danger to the operator.
Esther Shein is a freelance technology and business writer based in the Boston area.