Watch CBS News

Drones Delivering Blood To Hospitals Need FAA Approval To Take Off

PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) -- There's a new concept being pursued by Stanford Medical Center that needs FAA approval to get off the ground.

Stanford Blood Center is hoping to get blood delivered to hospitals via drone.

The unique endeavor could help save lives.

No matter how bad traffic is on the ground, a drone can make the 2.5-mile flight from Stanford Blood Center to the medical center in under five minutes.

And for doctors and nurses with a critical patient with a critical need for blood, that might just be the difference between living and dying.

"In that situation, it behooves us to move the product as quickly as possible from here to the hospital," said Stanford Blood Center Medical Director Dr. Tho Pham. "And if we have something parked here -- ready to fly at a moment's notice -- that would cut down on the time tremendously."

The Stanford Blood Center has partnered with drone manufacturer Matternet and the City of Palo Alto to ask permission from the FAA to launch a pilot program, testing the use of drones to deliver medical supplies, like blood and test samples.

"The two key things that you have to prove to the FAA is that you're not going to harm people on the ground or increase the risk of other people using the airspace," said Matternet founder and CEO Andreas Raptopoulos.

And for anyone who's still concerned that the drone might someday fall out of the sky and onto your head or windshield, there is one final fail-safe.

Raptopoulos said, "If a propeller failed for example, it would eject a parachute and make sure the aircraft descends without hurting anyone on the ground."

The partners say they can see a not-too-distant future where most hospitals are connected by a network of drones, delivering life-saving supplies.

An idea that right now needs FAA approval to get off the ground.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.