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Millions in need of medical attention live in rural and economically impoverished areas. Often, these areas are in developing nations lacking usable roads. Drones give health care workers fast, cost-effective access to lab tests needed for diagnoses and treatments. Latitude was approached by  Timothy Kien Amukele, M.D., Ph.D., a pathologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of a laboratory collaboration between Johns Hopkins and Uganda’s Makerere University. Amukele needs to transport blood for up to a three-hour flight while keeping it at a stable 68-degree Fahrenheit temperature. To add another layer of complexity, the first test flight would take place in the heat of the Arizona desert.


TimmothyAmukeleTimothy Kien Amukele, M.D., Ph.D. and the HQ-40






The HQ-40 system is well-suited for rugged, undeveloped areas where runways are few and far between.  In the case of the Johns Hopkins mission, a flight which starts on a hospital helipad in a busy city-center may well take the aircraft to the soccer field of a remote village.  The unique capability to launch and land within a twenty five-foot radius means missions like these, with a variety of operating conditions, aren’t a problem.




After leaving its origin location, the HQ-40 flies to a remote area in need.  Upon landing, the medical staff would place samples in the designated payload area and hit the “ready” button, launching the aircraft for return to its origin.  In route, the samples are kept cool by a refrigeration unit fitted to the payload bay.  Within hours, samples which normally take days to deliver are in a lab ready for testing.




The concept seems flawless, but would it work?  On October 7, 2016 at Florence Military Reservation, Latitude’s HQ-40 successfully demonstrated the pickup and delivery of a blood sample from a remote location.  Later tests showed the sample suffered no ill-effects.  The successful proof-of-concept yields promise for the future of drones as remote transport.