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Drones on Irchel Campus

Starting in December, drones will be transporting laboratory samples between UniversityHospital Zurich and the UZH lab on Irchel Campus – an approach that is time-saving as well as technologically and ecologically innovative.


Autonomous airmail: Next Thursday drones will transport laboratory samples from the UniversityHospital to Irchel Campus. (Picture: Used with permission)


Soon there will be a new sound in the air on Irchel Campus near the institutes of Neuroinformatics, Virology, Chemistry, Physics and Brain Research. Starting on 6 December, commercial drones from Swiss Post will be taking off and landing from the adjacent rooftop courtyard of Building Y35. 


An airstrip in the courtyard

These white, fully autonomous flying vehicles will be making about five unmanned journeys every day, bringing laboratory samples from UniversityHospital Zurich on Spöndlistrasse 9 to the diagnostic lab on Irchel Campus. There the blood and saliva samples can be analyzed as quickly as possible. “Previously the samples were transported between the hospital and our lab by road. How long this took was always different depending on the traffic situation. Now with the drones, not only do we have an environmentally friendly transport method, we can also gain valuable time for doctors who rely on fast results. This is a net gain for our patients,” says Urs Fankhauser, Head of Procurement and Logistics at UZH.


The University of Zurich's new drone delivery system is part of an innovative project by Swiss Post designed to develop the commercial use of drone transport in Switzerland. The project was approved by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation for one year and will be evaluated regularly by all participants.

The route the drones will be using for their deliveries between the UniversityHospital and Irchel Campus. (Picture: Used with permission)

More than 2,000 successful flights to date

Swiss Post already has experience with drone transport in the healthcare sector. In Lugano, their autonomous flying vehicles have already successfully completed more than 2,000 flights between two local hospitals, Ospedale Italiano and Ospedale Civico. Additionally, a pilot project is currently being conducted with the Insel Hospital Group in Bern.  “As a research and teaching institution, we are enthusiastic about this project. We’re convinced that the drones will do their job safely and efficiently,” says Fankhauser.


The first flights will take place on the evening of 6 December. They are expected to become part of everyday life on Irchel Campus from 10 December on.