A drone was used for conveying a coronavirus sample from Estonia’s second-largest island, Hiiumaa, for testing in Tallinn, for the first time.

The initiative was a joint one organized by the North Estonia Medical Center (PERH) and technology company Threod Systems, BNS reports.

The flight commenced at Heltermaa harbor at 2 p.m. Thursday, arriving 27 minutes later at Rohuküla on the mainland. A ferry journey between the same two points would have taken over an hour to cover the 12 nautical miles.

A lab is testing the sample of one Hiiumaa resident for coronavirus and will return the result that evening.

Meelis Roosimägi, head of the PERH hospital network, said that since time is of the essence, work is continuously ongoing at PERH, to develop new solutions to enable help to reach patients, and th latter to reach a doctor, as quickly as possible.

“In the current, and future, sudden epidemics, the conduct of fast clinical surveys is essential, to be able to direct assistance to where it is needed most,” Roosimägi said.

“Our healthcare infrastructure is quite good already; samples from different corners of the mainland reach labs with better capabilities in one-and-a-half hours. There are problems, however, when it comes to the various islands off the coast of Estonia . The sea makes all journeys long, and  often makes deliveries dependent on ferry schedules. This is no just with the big islands, but also the small islands, where there are no local medical services,” he went on.

For this reason, PERH decided to test fly drone samples for the first time in Estonia, in the three-way cooperation between Hiiumaa Hospital, PERH and Threod Systems, a defense tech firm.

Roosimägi said Thursday’s undertaking was primarily a test of a new and innovative concept, whose success allows them to move forward with the development.

Whilst a range of seven kilometers is considered advanced for ordinary unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, this is not enough in a crisis or when a flight has to be performed to one of Estonia’s small islands,

The Threod Systems drones include drones with ranges of 100 kilometers which can carry a maximum payload of more than one kilogram, which makes them suited for operation between the mainland and the small islands, BNS says.