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And so it begins: commercial drone use is happening in the US as UPS, with drone company Matternet, today delivers medical samples to a hospital and campus in Raleigh, North Carolina (NC).
The FAA sanctioned the drone for routine revenue flights involving the transport of a product under a contractual delivery agreement, and has oversight of the programme.
Currently, most medical samples and specimens at WakeMed’s NC facility are brought by car, but drones will bypass the traffic and allow for on-demand delivery.
“Drone transport will improve speed of deliveries at a lower cost, enhance access to care and create healthier communities,” said Donald Gintzig, WakeMed president and CEO.
“WakeMed is committed to innovation, and we believe drone technology has the potential to achieve transformative improvements in health care delivery.”
The project is also supported by the NC Department of Transportation, which, along with the FAA, Matternet, UPS and WakeMed, is part of three-year pilot programme, using Matternet’s lithium-ion battery-charged M2 quadcopter.
The drone will fly along a predetermined flight path, monitored by a specially trained remote pilot-in-command (RPIC), to a landing pad at WakeMed’s main hospital and central pathology lab.
This collaboration is the latest UPS programme to use drones to support healthcare logistics. The operator partnered with GAVI and Zipline in 2016 to deliver blood products to remote locations in Rwanda and the Matternet team has already completed more than 3,000 flights for healthcare systems in Switzerland.
“UPS Healthcare & Life Sciences is excited to expand on our current lab specimen logistics portfolio to drive step change in today’s delivery models,” said Chris Cassidy, UPS president of global healthcare & life sciences strategy.
“Using drones to bring blood and other diagnostic specimens from medical facilities to central labs will improve transport efficiencies like never before. And with fewer vehicles on the road, we’ll generate less environmental impact.”
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