A worldwide consensus is emerging among scientists, economists and public health officials that a massive increase in testing capacity will be needed, creating a system that can test millions of people a day to get out of the lockdown safely. On the other hand it is necessary to avoid that this enormous mass of persons is forced to run across long distances or crowd around hospitals so increasing the risks of new additional infections. Therefore the basic concept of this project is the distribution in order to carry out the tests closest possible to the residential areas or working sites, exploiting the speed and the “fly-over” capabilities of drones. The project ABzero presented for EUvsVirus Challenge is inspired to the basic system developed for the transportation and delivery of blood bags and other blood products. The main difference is that in the basic solution ABzero drone is connecting two or more fixed sites (e.g. hospitals or transfusion centers) while for this project the final fixed site still is a hospital or an analysis laboratory but the starting site is variable according to the need of tests execution (e.g. city neighborhood or small town or rural village or companies). In this case the ABzero system has to be associated to a dedicated vehicle, preferably a Mobile Clinic where the persons can be accommodated for test execution, particularly for serological tests and the vehicle can also accommodate the ABzero drone and Smart Capsule during the transfer from one place to another.

What it does and how we built it

ABzero system is based on a commercial hardware, the drone, and a technological core by ABzero, that is the smart capsule. The system is able to provide a fully autonomous drone delivery service for perishable and high-value medical products, integrating real-time quality monitoring and control. It consists on a smart casing able to guide any autonomous aerial vehicle attached to it, specifically designed for transporting blood, organs, tissues, test samples and drugs, among others. The system monitors the conditions of the product (e.g. temperature, agitation and humidity) and adjusts them when needed by exploiting, for instance, vibrations to maintain the required agitation, ensuring that goods are ready to use as soon as delivered. The system replaces the need for specialised drivers and traditional road-bound transportation means, while guaranteeing compliance with all applicable safety regulations. software performance is augmented by the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) for advanced functionalities, such as user experience, remote control, and safety. The AI software makes it possible to pilot drones autonomously on pre-authorised routes, with automatic adjustments in case of obstacles or bad weather conditions. It also modifies flight modes according to changing environmental conditions to save battery life. The system is in fact able to perform a risk assessment, compulsory by law, automatically evaluating the environmental conditions to assess whether it is safe to fly, and notifying flight authorities when routes change. Advanced safety levels are possible thanks to remote control in Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) mode, a technology that allows a pilot to take remote control of the drone through augmented reality overlapped with camera images, in case of emergency. This technology combines Detect & Avoid with See & Avoid, typical of an on-board pilot, without the assistance of a ground pilot. The AI software, will enable the remote operator to visualise images instantly and with 3D vision, thanks to 3G, 4G and 5G networks, like if they were on board the drone. In case of emergency landing, a pick up and delivery service will recover the freight and deliver to destination. The ABzero software is based on a different layer architecture that include an app as interface with the user, a frnt end, a back end for enabling connection with a server. The software connection with the drone is guaranteed by an architecture based on ROS. The hardware part is design by a design studio making the solution functional...and cool!

What we have done during the weekend

During this great weekend we worked defining operative scenarios in which our project could operate during the emergency for Covid-19. We discussed each other and with mentors, we received suggestions to improve the project and congratulations of many colleagues.

The solution’s impact to the crisis

The know-how and experience gained by ABzero in the development of an innovative system allow you to quickly implement useful applications during the coronavirus emergency that is afflicting Italy and the entire Europe. A reduction of blood donors is being observed due to the fear and risks of contagion that could arise when leaving home. At the same time, mass screenings with swabs have been hypothesized and often, they are not carried out due to lack of resources. Kits for the rapid diagnosis of Covid19 also exist and are already available on the market: these, integrated with the ABzero system, would allow to reach remote locations or difficult (e.g. islands, mountain villages, etc.). The ABzero service allow to directly connect mobile clinics and hospitals through an automatic and safe delivery system via drones. The system allows to:

  • connect mobile clinics and analysis laboratories within hospitals;
  • avoid contacts between people using an autonomous system;
  • speed up the transport by reducing the time by 80% and at a negligible cost for the single delivery;
  • the Smart Capsule has the capability to carry 4 to 5 Kg and has a payload volume of about 2.6 lt. This allows to host about 100 tubes UTM standard for tests;
  • considering an average flight distance of 20 km (max is 20 km) and the availabilty of 10 h/d (8.00 - 18.00) ABzero system can deliver to hospitals/labs about 2.500 tests per day

The future is then launching the solution to help the Covid 19 Emergency in following scenarios.

  1. Performing swabs / screening in decentralized clinics with respect to the main hospital In a clinic decentralized with respect to the main hospital, tampons are carried out on people. The ABzero drone system transports the samples to the laboratory. In this way, the acquisition time of the swabs decreases, a key parameter for making a greater number of them, as demonstrated in countries where the phenomenon is experiencing a very strong decrease.
  2. Transportation of donations to increase the efficiency of the blood donation system Areas are defined in the city where a mobile clinic is located and where healthy donors can go by reservation (also based on the need for specific blood group needed at that stage). The ABzero system with the drone transports the blood of donations to the transfusion workshop for use. In this way, donors do not have to go to the hospital but to an area of the neighborhood near their home.
  3. System on board a mobile vehicle / clinic, equipped for blood mass tests and swabs This scenario is particularly framed in city districts and / or municipalities with isolated hamlets that can be reached with difficult roads and / or islands near the coast. The vehicle goes to the chosen place where a health worker carries out the door-to-door sampling. The samples are loaded onto the drone which transports them to the hospital and / or laboratory and returns to the vehicle for a subsequent mission.

The necessities in order to continue the project

In order to continue the project, we need funding & strategical partnership. However, during emergency, the ABzero Life Saving Partners for Covid-19 is ready and could operate. For doing that, we need concrete manifestation of interests that could help us to carry on the activities to set up a working solution in 3 weeks. This would be also possible by winning the prize of this Hackathon: that would be sufficient to set up up to 5 systems for 3 months.

The value of your solution(s) after the crisis

This project started before the crisis but its value of our solution can clearly be perceived better during the crisis and after that. The value is related to two main markets: the one of blood delivery (and now swas, hemocomponents etc.) and the one of drones. Both of these markets are huge. The world market for blood and blood products is estimated to be worth approximately USD 34 billion in 2016 and is expected to increase to around USD 45 billion in 2023. In Italy the number of donations is approximately 2.5 million per year, 108 million worldwide. A conservative estimate of the transport market in Italy is € 105 million. Reasoning in this context, the order of magnitude of the global market is around € 5-6 billion. The US is more than a third of the world market while Europe is worth around € 1 billion. The drone market and more specifically that of flying drones was born a few years ago and is in strong growth. The global market is estimated today to be worth about $ 6.8 billion and is expected to reach $ 37 billion in 2022 (5x). The directive is evolving rapidly: on 24/5/2019, the European Commission published the implementing regulation 2019/947 on 24 May 2019, relating to "standards and procedures for the operation of unmanned aircraft". Therefore, unless the time required for transposition and customary adoption by national flight control bodies, regulation exists: the new regulation is effective from 1/7/2019 and harmonizes European regulations and greatly simplifies the procedures for requesting authorizations . We do not yet have market data well divided by application, we know that the military sphere absorbs a large percentage today, and also that commercial drones are starting to be widespread. From the point of view of professional civil use, it is known that many large groups, such as Amazon and DHL, already have fleets of devices and are starting to launch parcel delivery services via drones. We think that the crisis born with Covid-19 will help the dissemination, the habit and the acceptance of the new service we propose.

Challenges we ran into

Starting from a prototype and get to an industrial product. In life things are said to happen and change if you take roads or not, if you make choices or not. Sliding doors ! Our story begins by chance by a discussion, a word thrown there as if to tickle the mind of the other, a phrase said absentmindedly to pass without delay to the idea, often and willingly, wacky next. " ... but if we carried the blood with the drones ....?! ”It was a sunny day and that phrase, called en passant as fresh water, changed our lives. And then we made it.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

ABzero is an innovative start-up company specialized in the design and production of technology and engineering consulting for the emergency healthcare sector. ABzero was born to create a system to safely and efficiently transport highly valuable and perishable medical products, taking to reality our dream of creating a smart medical delivery system. Thanks to solid partnerships with major technology institutes such as Scuola Sant’Anna of Pisa (Italy), an excellence centre for biorobotics, ABzero bases its strength on continuous research and innovation development. Our revolutionary innovation has won several prizes and competitions. such as the NatiPer competition of AXA (€50k, 2017), the CambiaMENTI award by the Italian CAN (2017), and POR-FESR Regione Molise (€660K, 2014), amongst others. We were also finalists in the Maserati Innovation Day (2017) and Leopolda Future Summit, and won the Zamma Award, the StartCup Toscana in 2017 and the Innovation Tuscany Award in 2018.

We are also proud that our Innovation has been considered valuable for Covid19 Emergency by national and european supporters:

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