Imagine calling 911 to report a medical emergency, but before the paramedics can arrive in an ambulance, a drone appears out of the sky and administers life-saving medication. Science fiction? Not to researcher from Zhejiang University who are working on just such a system.

The uFAST relies on a drone — more accurately, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) — to deliver first-aid therapeutics to the scene of an accident or other medical emergency. If there are people already on site, they might not be trained in medical care or drug administration. The system has that covered, as the uFAST is designed to administer medications on its own. It hovers over the patient and releases a weighted canister. When it contacts the patient’s body, the device applies a patch covered with microneedles that are loaded with the required therapeutics.

The researchers have tested it on a severely hypoglycemic pig model, using the drone to deliver a glucagon patch that had both immediate and bioresponsive release modes.

Clearly, we are a long way from this becoming a practical solution. But it does point to the potential of combining various technologies to solve a real problem. And before long, a drone might just be able to get to you faster than the paramedics can.