UPS Begins Using Drones to Transport Medical Samples at North Carolina Hospitals
29 March, 2019, 16:26
United Parcel Service Inc. and a startup drone partner began the first continuing commercial drone deliveries in the US, making a short flight carrying a medical sample between North Carolina hospitals on Tuesday.
The company said the program will take place at WakeMed's flagship hospital campus in Raleigh, N.C. The effort will include "numerous planned daily revenue flights" on the WakeMed campus.
The project forms part of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) three-year Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP), which aims to learn how new technology can be safely and usefully integrated into day-to-day activities through practical trials between government-private sector partnerships.
Under the program, a medical professional will load a drone container with a medical sample or specimen, such as a blood sample, at one of WakeMed's facilities.
The drone deliveries further UPS Chief Executive Officer David Abney's push into managing and delivering health-care products.
"The role that UPS plays is basically the "airline" for the unmanned vehicle", said Dan Gagnon, vice president of global healthcare strategy at UPS.
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It will provide "the ability to avoid roadway delays, increase medical delivery efficiency, lower costs and improve the patient experience with potentially life-saving benefits", the company added. UPS and Matternet will manage the remote monitoring of the drone flights.
The "quadcopter" drones can carry medical payloads weight up to five pounds (2.3 kilograms) for distances up to 12.5 miles (20 kilometers). UPS expects to use the experience gained with WakeMed to offer similar services to other USA hospitals.
NC Department of Transportation is working to leverage drones to expand healthcare access for the residents of the state.
The United Parcel Service this week announced a "groundbreaking" new program to deliver medical samples via drone.
Ganesh said UPS, which already has a robust medical-supply-chain network, was chiefly interested in the healthcare applications of drones. In 2016, UPS Foundation partnered with Gavi, a health organization, and Zipline, a drone company, to deliver blood samples to remote areas in Rwanda.
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