Specimen Delivery by Unmanned Drone

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UPS recently announced a partnership with Matternet to transport medical samples via drone across a hospital system in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Specimen Delivery by Unmanned Drone

Karen DiDonato • April 24, 2019

Medical samples are now being transported by an unmanned drone across WakeMed‘s flagship hospital and campus. The 941-bed hospital system includes three full-service hospitals and other facilities in North Carolina’s Triangle area.

The program uses a quadcopter powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery made by Matternet, a leader in autonomous drone technology. The drone can carry up to about five pounds over distances of up to 12.5 miles.

A WakeMed medical professional loads the drone with medical samples, such as blood samples, and sends them along a predetermined flight path to a fixed landing pad at WakeMed’s main hospital and central pathology lab.

WakeMed previously relied on courier cars, which were subject to road delays.

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 announced the new specimen delivery service as a collaboration with Matternet with oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and North Carolina’s Department of Transportation.

The drone deliveries are part of a pilot program the FAA launched last August to test practical applications of drones and analyze how they could be used safely to speed deliveries and reduce costs.

“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,” Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos said in a statement. “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.”

This new specimen delivery service is part of a longer-term plan to incorporate drones into its delivery of supplies and samples to medical facilities. Data from those flights will help the companies work on similar drone logistics projects at other hospitals in the future.

Drone in healthcare
The Matternet M2.
Matternet M2
A view of the top of the Matternet M2.
A view of the side of the Matternet M2.
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Author: Karen DiDonato

Karen, our digital content strategist, has worked with HCI since 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in communications. In her free time she enjoys baking, reading, and gardening.

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