Overcoming Technological and Policy Challenges to Medical Uses of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

39 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2020

See all articles by Robert F. Graboyes

Robert F. Graboyes

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Darcy Bryan

Independent

John Coglianese

Independent

Date Written: January 2020

Abstract

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or “drones”) can bring a powerful lifesaving capability to medical situations in which time is critical. Eventually, drones may also bring efficiency and cost savings to nonurgent medical situations. In some places, such as Rwanda and Ghana, UAVs are already saving lives by transporting blood products and other medical supplies across those countries. The United States and other developed countries are exploring potential uses for medical UAVs and conducting experiments accordingly. Techno-optimists envision skies filled with drones executing medical missions, as well as performing more quotidian tasks like delivering packages. The possibilities, indeed, are considerable, but it is important to temper optimism with a sober look at the obstacles that stand between the present and this imagined future. Making full use of UAV technology will require technological advances and regulatory changes to mitigate the risks large-scale drone traffic would impose on America’s heavily used airspace. A catastrophic incident (say, the downing of an airliner) could eviscerate public tolerance of the technology, so the challenge for timely deployment is to achieve a high degree of safety without a destructively high level of risk aversion.

Keywords: medicine, medical, healthcare, drone, unmanned aerial vehicle, unmanned aerial system, technology, regulation, innovation, engineering, transportation, communication

JEL Classification: H8, O31, O32, O33, R4

Suggested Citation

Graboyes, Robert F. and Bryan, Darcy and Coglianese, John, Overcoming Technological and Policy Challenges to Medical Uses of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (January 2020). Mercatus Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3561743 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3561743

Robert F. Graboyes (Contact Author)

Mercatus Center at George Mason University ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd. 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Darcy Bryan

Independent

No Address Available
United States

John Coglianese

Independent

No Address Available
United States

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