American logistics and delivery giant UPS is partnering with Matternet, a drone-logistics start-up, to shuttle medical samples among scattered facilities at WakeMed-the 941-bed hospital system which comprises three full-service hospitals and other facilities in North Carolina’s Triangle area.
The first authorized drones use to transport packages to recipients was launched on Tuesday as a part of a pilot program that the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) started last August to test practical applications of drones and analyze their safe use to speed deliveries and reduce costs. It was called unmanned aircraft system integration pilot program (IPP) in which Matternet had conducted test flights too.
UPS has teamed up with Matternet, which makes autonomous drones and already has operations in Switzerland, for the same-day delivery service, the company said in a statement. UPS previously partnered with Zipline to test medical deliveries via drone in remote communities in Rwanda.
Calling the inaugural flight a major milestone for unmanned aviation in the United States UPS said, “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 “quadcopter” drone has the capability of carrying medical payloads up to five pounds (2.3 kilograms) in weight for distances up to 12.5 miles (20 kilometers).Traditional courier service prevails as of now.
Enthusiastic about the drone delivery services WakeMed President Donald Gintzig said, “Drone transport will improve speed of deliveries at a lower cost, enhance access to care and create healthier communities.”
UPS said in a statement. “The addition of drone transport provides an option for on-demand and same-day delivery, the ability to avoid roadway delays, increase medical delivery efficiency, lower costs and improve the patient experience with potentially life-saving benefits.” UPS and Matternet are also working with North Carolina’s Department of Transportation to conduct the drone flights.
The drone-led deliveries will entail a medical professional loading the drone with a medical sample or specimen, such as a blood sample first. Then the drone will fly along a predetermined route to a fixed landing pad at WakeMed’s main hospital and central pathology lab. UPS and Matternet will then analyze the program to help better determine drone use for improved deliveries at other hospitals throughout the country.
Bala Ganesh UPS VP of Advanced Technology Group said “We believe unmanned aerial systems could better serve customer needs and provide opportunities for network improvements that generate efficiencies and enable us to grow our business.”
Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos added, “Together with UPS, we aim to shift the status quo for on-demand logistics for healthcare systems in the U.S. through drone delivery networks. Our technology allows hospital systems to transport medical items at an unprecedented level of speed and predictability, resulting in improved patient care and operational savings.”
The aim is to use drones for reducing costs and increase efficiency during transportation of essential medical supplies eventually.