Swiss drone manufacturer and services company RigiTech has continued pushing the boundaries of its activities by staging a long-distance beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) aerial delivery over Lake Geneva, linking two medical labs.
The RigiTech medical BVLOS delivery flight builds on years of short-distance UAV transport trials by Switzerland’s postal service that were suspended following crash incidents. The company said its round-trip was among the longest ever operated in the country and marked a rare aerial crossing of Lake Geneva. By linking laboratories in Cologny and Coppet, meanwhile, the RigiTech Eiger craft became the first to make a jaunt between two different Swiss cantons over water.
The route above the lake vastly decreased the number of people and vehicles overflown by the UAV. But preparing for the BVLOS delivery of the drone’s medical payload took months of planning by RigiTech alongside local, cantonal, and federal authorities – including Switzerland’s regulator and air traffic controllers at Geneva’s airport. Precautions to protect local fauna were also required, as was close interaction with Swiss maritime officials to minimize the number of boats sailing beneath the flight path.
But the work was worth it for RigiTech, which views the fast, efficient BVLOS performance of delivery drones to be a key asset in improving the medical treatment people across Europe and the world will receive.
“This flight represents a regulatory milestone and another step towards our expansion in the healthcare sector,” said RigiTech CEO Adam Klaptocz. “Being able to fly in Switzerland, our home country, is especially significant. It marks our fifth European country with BVLOS authorizations, and fourth for the Eiger.”
Indeed, last August RigiTech announced it had received authorization from French authorities to trial BVLOS drone deliveries of lab specimens and tests between medical facilities in the central-east part of the country for its client, Biogroup. That operation is part of RigiTech’s broader effort to build a future network connecting the over 900 Biogroup clinics and laboratories in France, as well as those in Spain and throughout Europe.
Its flight over Lake Geneva was another demonstration of RigiTech’s drone tech improving medical deliveries – cutting nearly 90 minutes from the time required by road transportation to make the trip in rush hour conditions. Eiger UAVs have temperature-controlled holds that can carry up to three kilograms of payload – comparable to 300 preconditioned blood vials – and can be turned around for return flights inside 10 minutes.
“We are managing to surpass new obstacles and challenges from our sector,” said Alejandro Del Estal, RigiTech’s head of operations. “Every new successful authorization and safe operation is a step forward for the whole industry, which is something we can be proud of.”