Package delivery giant UPS has introduced a new logistics service using Matternet’s unmanned drones to deliver medical samples in the North Carolina metropolitan area.
UPS and Matternet tested the service and plan to begin numerous scheduled daily revenue flights from WakeMed hospital in Raleigh, N.C.
The current system involves medical samples and specimens being transported across the healthcare system via courier cars. Drone transport allows for on-demand and same-day delivery with the ability to avoid roadway delays, increase medical delivery efficiency, lower costs and deliver potentially life-saving benefits.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) supported the first round of test flights with the drone technology. The program is also part of the three-year FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP) that is aimed at testing drones for practical applications by partnering with local government and private companies to learn more about how drones can be safely integrated into day-to-day activities.
UPS will use Matternet’s M2 quadcopter for the service, which can carry medical payloads weighing about 5 lbs and can travel distances of up to 12.5 m. A medical professional will load a secure drone container with a medical sample or specimen and fly along a predetermined flight path, monitored by a specially trained remote pilot to a fixed landing pad at WakeMed’s main hospital and central pathology lab.
UPS said it plans to build a smart logistics network to support hospitals and other healthcare organizations by building new relationships and technologies to deliver patient care with streamlined logistics and supply chain.
The company has been testing drone delivery for the past few years, partnering with GAVI and Zipline in 2016 to deliver blood products in Rwanda. UPS also initiated a package delivery project in Florida to test last-mile logistics involving drones in collaboration with Workhorse Group.