The International Testing Agency has tested the use of drones for delivering anti-doping samples ©ITA

The International Testing Agency (ITA) has begun using drones to transport anti-doping samples in order to assess the feasibility of the technology and establish if it has an impact on sample integrity.

The ITA collaborated with Swiss drone company RigiTech and the Anti-Doping Laboratory Qatar (ALDQ) in the experiment, which lasted four days and saw drones exercise multiple take-offs, landings and flights over distances of up to 20 kilometres in Doha.

The main aim was to establish whether samples would be affected by drone transport.

They were therefore tested in accordance with the laboratory standards of the World Anti-Doping Code.

"We are proud to lead the way in the exploration of an exciting new method of doping sample transport," ITA director general Benjamin Cohen said.

"Should the technical, analytical and security evaluation of this pilot project be conclusive, it would lead to a first official implementation of sample drone delivery and could represent a milestone for the clean sport community.

"The impact on the flexibility and efficiency of sample transport in the future could be significant.

"We are grateful for the motivation of all involved partners - ADLQ, RigiTech and PCC [the Partnership for Clean Competition] - to step off the beaten path and collaborate with us on this innovation."

The ITA claims that drone delivery has multiple advantages compared to existing transport methods.

Drones do not rely on terrestrial mobility infrastructure that could slow down delivery, such as congestion and traffic lights, and also have easier access to remote areas that are hard to get to such as mountain or water venues.

Drone transport also reduces carbon emissions and means samples are handled by fewer people, decreasing the possibility of tampering and improving safety.