SANBS drone blood

Image via YouTube: @OfficialSANBS

SA National Blood Service will use drone technology to deliver blood

The SANBS is employing modern drone technology to save lives.

SANBS drone blood

Image via YouTube: @OfficialSANBS

The organisation that does the thankless work of stockpiling and distributing life-giving blood donations now has a new weapon at its disposal to reduce the cost and time it takes to deliver blood when it’s needed quickly.

The SANBS launched its new TRON at the North Eastern Radio Flyers in Sandton. The drone is designed to be a faster, more cost-effective and efficient solution to traditional methods like helicopters.

“We had a discussion with the department of health to discuss how to help people in rural areas, and hence the drone project was born,” said SANBS CEO Dr Jonathan Louw.

In addition, the drones are engineered to meet 7 criteria Speed, Two-way logistics, physical conditions, Safety, Payload capacity, Distance, Cost.

SANBS drone specs


The aircraft can travel as fast as 180km/h and as slow as 60km/h and would have less preparation time necessary before the flight could commence.

Two-Way logistics

There is often a requirement that patients provide tissue or fluid samples before a match can be made. The drones are engineered so that they can effectively collect or deliver samples.

Physical Conditions

The integrity of the blood or sample on board is of utmost importance. The drones are designed to ensure that the temperature and G forces do not jeopardise its payload.

Drone safety

The aircraft are designed to be able to glide to the ground or deploy a parachute in the event of an emergency and is fully autonomous.

Payload capacity

Each drone will be able to carry at least 4 units of blood. That would be a payload weight of around 2kg.


With the biggest beneficiaries of the drone technologies being rural areas, the drones are designed to have sufficient range that they will be able to receive blood from urban hubs.


It’s estimated that a drone flight could cost the SANBS as little as R10, a fraction of current alternatives. Dr Louw explains:

“We believe this will be a milestone in the history of blood transfusion, not only in South Africa but in the entire world.”

The SANBS has partnered with Quantum Systems and are currently conducting tests before hopefully launching throughout the country once they gain the required licensing from the civil aviation authority.

Watch: The SANBS drone delivery program

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