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UPS and Matternet team up to deliver medical samples via drones

By Sasha Fedorenko March 28, 2019 - 1:35 pm

UPS and Matternet have teamed to transport medical samples via unmanned drones in the US. The program is taking place at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in the Raleigh, New York, metropolitan area, with oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration and North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Throughout the WakeMed program, a medical professional will load a secure drone container with a medical sample or specimen – such as a blood sample – at one of WakeMed’s nearby facilities. The drone will fly along a predetermined flight path, monitored by a specially trained Remote Pilot-in-Command (RPIC), to a fixed landing pad at WakeMed’s main hospital and central pathology lab.

This will be an ongoing program at WakeMed, UPS and Matternet will use the learnings to consider how drones can be applied to improve transport services at other hospitals and medical facilities across the US.

The UPS and Matternet program represents a milestone for unmanned aviation in the United States. Currently, the majority of medical samples and specimens are transported across WakeMed’s expanding health system by courier cars. 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.

This collaboration is the latest UPS program to utilise drone flights in support of healthcare logistics. UPS partnered with GAVI and Zipline in 2016 to deliver blood products to remote locations in Rwanda. The Matternet team has already completed more than 3,000 flights for healthcare systems in Switzerland.

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