Like most syringes, tranquilizer darts use pressure to drive flow. But where a typical syringe has that pressurization provided by a human driving the piston, tranquilizer darts must deploy without any hands-on action. As shown in the video above, this is achieved by pressurization prior to firing.
The tranquilizer dart has a few key features. Its needle, though sharp, does not have a hole in the end. Instead, it has a hole partway down the barrel of the needle, which is covered before launch by a rubber sleeve. The dart also contains two chambers. One is filled with the medicine being deployed. The other gets pressurized with air through a one-way valve. As long as the rubber sleeve stays over the needle’s hole, the dart is then pressurized, but the fluid has nowhere to go.
Until it’s fired, of course. On impact, the rubber sleeve is pushed away, and the higher pressure inside the air chamber drives the medicine out of the needle and into the animal. (Video and image credit: The Slow Mo Guys)