STONY BROOK - Drones are now being used to deliver medical supplies to rural communities where the delivery of care is hampered by poor or non-existent roads, thanks to a partnership involving Stony Brook University.

Last month, Stony Brook's Global Health Institute used a computer-controlled drone, made by Vayu Aircraft, to carry blood samples from a rural Madagascar village to a modern laboratory several miles away over rough terrain.

"There never has been an autonomous transport by drone of critical lab samples from a remote rural village in Africa or anywhere to a central laboratory for testing purposes," says Daniel Pepper, of Vayu.

The flight was just a few miles, but Vayu says its drone can travel up to 40 miles one-way – delivering a small payload of medical supplies or carry samples for testing.

Stony Brook Med Student Koen Choi helped with the drone test. She says drones can be a symbol of hope for communities in need.

"The possibilities for their use is incalculable," says Choi. "We can bring vaccines, we can bring medications. TB is a big problem over there."

Stony Brook says it wants to ramp up its medical drone delivery tests in Madagascar. The program received funding for its drone test from the U.S. Agency for International Development.