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FDA Mulls Using Drones

Updated December 19, 2014

Drones are now widely used by the military. And both Amazon and Google and experimental programs to use drones to deliver packages. In the medical sector, drones have been envisioned as a means to carry emergency medical devices such as defibrillators.

FDA was reportedly investigating the use of the technology, according to a recent report in Regulatory Focus but recently cancelled their plans to test the technology.

While the agency said it has no formal drone plans in place, it is "conducting preliminary feasibility testing on possible applications for drone technology in fulfillment of the agency's mission," said FDA spokesperson Andrea Fischer to Regulatory Focus.

Fischer later explained to Qmed that "FDA would like to underscore that the Agency does not have an aerial device (or "drone") program in place." While the FDA's Office of Informatics and Technology Innovation (OITI) had plans to test drone technology "for research and development purposes, FDA "is not considering the use of drone technology in connection with inspections or surveillance."

The aforementioned report in Regulatory Focus stated that the use of drones would enable the agency to more easily inspect sprawling manufacturing facilities as well as help FDA's agricultural division monitor agrarian locations. As an email from the agency explained, drones could prove useful "in the areas of manufacturing site inspections, farm inspections, or land area inspection surveillance.

FDA's Office of Informatics and Technology Innovation has been tasked with overseeing the proposal under the guidance of Taha Kass-Hout, FDA's chief health information officer--the first person to serve the agency in that capacity.

The agency reportedly had plans to test drones at its campus.

Meanwhile, another regulatory agency, FAA is developing new rules to guide the use of drones, potentially opening up new commercial uses that are now illegal under U.S. regulations. According to Xconomy, FAA plans to finish the rules by September 2015.

If rumors prove to be true, the forthcoming guidelines could scare off drone developers in the United States, according to Xconomy citing Helen Greiner, the CEO of the drone firm CyPhy Works.

Refresh your medical device industry knowledge at MD&M West, in Anaheim, CA, February 10-12, 2015.

Brian Buntz is the editor-in-chief of MPMN. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz and Google+.

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