Drones could soon make house calls, dropping off Medical supplies, prescriptions and even self-administered lab tests. A team of inventors at the University of Cincinnati is developing the technology that combines artificial intelligence with sensors that allow the drones to navigate inside through doorways and into homes.

The autonomous system under development would allow the drones to travel farther than most traditional drones.

“Most drones rely on controllers that work on radio communication and require line-of-site for safe, remonte operation. That’s why most drones have limited operational range,” said Manish Kumar, University of Cincinnati professor of mechanical engineering.

Kumar and engineering students began working about seven years ago with Debi Sampsel, director of telehealth at UC’s College of Nursing, to apply technology to real-world problems of accessibility. The university has been experimenting with sensors and other technology in a “smart house” to develop aids for older adults living in a nearby retirement community.

Samsel thought telehealth delivery could be improved to reduce healthcare disparities.

Drones could potentially perform a variety of tasks. They could be equipped with cameras to allow patients to interact with healthcare providers, and even assess food and kitchen appliances available to seniors in their homes.

“We can perform all kinds of functions (with drones): chronic disease management, post-operative care monitoring, health coaching and consultations,” Samsel said.

The prototype drone under development carries medical supplies and lab tests in a waterproof box the size of a first aid kit.