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Overcoming Technological and Policy Challenges to Medical Uses of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

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Document pages: 39 pages

Abstract: Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or “drones”) can bring a powerful lifesaving capability to medical situations in which time is critical. Eventually, drones may also bring efficiency and cost savings to nonurgent medical situations. In some places, such as Rwanda and Ghana, UAVs are already saving lives by transporting blood products and other medical supplies across those countries. The United States and other developed countries are exploring potential uses for medical UAVs and conducting experiments accordingly. Techno-optimists envision skies filled with drones executing medical missions, as well as performing more quotidian tasks like delivering packages. The possibilities, indeed, are considerable, but it is important to temper optimism with a sober look at the obstacles that stand between the present and this imagined future. Making full use of UAV technology will require technological advances and regulatory changes to mitigate the risks large-scale drone traffic would impose on America’s heavily used airspace. A catastrophic incident (say, the downing of an airliner) could eviscerate public tolerance of the technology, so the challenge for timely deployment is to achieve a high degree of safety without a destructively high level of risk aversion.

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