Uruguay is making strides in drone delivery as RigiTech's Eiger drone takes to the skies in a four-month pilot project. This initiative marks the first Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight (BVLOS) operation in Latin America. Spanish-Uruguayan company CIELUM, in collaboration with engineer Franco Simini from the biomedical engineering nucleus of the Faculty of Engineering (UDELAR) and Tacuarembó Hospital (ASSE), has commenced BVLOS deliveries to enhance medical logistics within the Tacuarembó department of Uruguay.
Equipped with a 15-liter volume capacity and a range of 100 km, the Eiger drone empowers Tacuarembó Hospital to transport essential medical supplies and products like breast milk, blood samples, and medicine. The drone is operated by a local team, which includes members of the hospital's permanent staff. The initial BVLOS operations, monitored remotely through RigiCloud, were successfully conducted last week. In a testament to the transformative nature of this technological innovation, the hospital has also introduced Uruguay's first vertical port on its premises, featuring RigiTech's Precision Landing pads, a donated hangar from a local company, and appropriate lighting to facilitate nighttime flights.
After obtaining authorizations from the National Directorate of Civil Aviation and Aeronautical Infrastructure (DINACIA), the project officially launched last week, establishing a drone delivery network between the hospital and three rural polyclinics of the RAP Tacuarembó: Villa Tambores, Villa Curtina, and Villa Ansina. The network will be expanded to a maximum of 10 rural polyclinics during the project's execution. Financed by international cooperation funds, this initiative will provide a logistical solution for Uruguay's largest department, covering an area of 15,400 square km, thereby reaching geographically challenging areas. Moreover, it is projected to reduce carbon emissions in the transport process by an impressive 95% compared to ground transportation.
Tacuarembó Hospital, recognized by UNICEF as the first Baby-Friendly hospital in Uruguay, has already established the country's first inland breast milk bank (BLM). Transporting human milk to and from the BLM is of utmost importance, especially for premature, underweight, or malnourished infants in urgent need. Thanks to strategies implemented 20 years ago, along with the regional Intensive Treatment Centre (CTI) for children, the region has witnessed a significant reduction in infant mortality, achieving one of the lowest rates in the country.
Dr. Ciro Ferreira, the hospital director, expressed his enthusiasm about the air logistics strategy, stating, "This will allow us to bridge the gap in our territory and be at the side of our ASSE users, reducing the time for diagnosis and treatment for people living in rural areas without the need to come to the hospital. Delivery of samples for examinations and their processing in the central laboratory can be done quickly, benefiting rural doctors for timely decision-making. We will also have a greater collection of pasteurized human milk for our newborns at the children's CTI. Furthermore, we can ensure the prompt delivery of medical supplies or specific medicines to the polyclinics in urgent situations, such as the shipment of anti-venom serum."
Sebastián Macías, CEO at CIELUM, highlighted the significance of this project, remarking, "With this project, Uruguay enters a new era: urban and rural air mobility with unmanned aircraft. This is made possible by the development of low-altitude airspace support, established in collaboration with civil aviation and the National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII), along with the presence of a reference center like Tacuarembó Hospital."