First FAA sanctioned use of a drone for routine revenue flights involving the transport of a product under a contractual delivery agreement
UPS (NYSE:UPS) today announced a groundbreaking new logistics service to deliver medical samples via unmanned drones through a collaboration with Matternet, a leader in autonomous drone technology. The program is taking place at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in the Raleigh, N.C., metropolitan area, with oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration and North Carolina Department of Transportation. Today’s flight marks the beginning of numerous planned daily revenue flights at the WakeMed Raleigh campus.
The UPS and Matternet program represents a major 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.
NCDOT, which is working to leverage drones to expand healthcare access for the residents of North Carolina, supported Matternet in conducting first-round test flights using Matternet’s drone technology on WakeMed’s campus in August 2018 as part of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP). The three-year FAA program aims to test practical applications of drones by partnering local governments with private sector companies to learn more about how this emerging technology can be safely and usefully integrated into day-to-day activities. The five IPP partners involved are the FAA, NCDOT, UPS, Matternet, and WakeMed.
The program will utilize Matternet’s M2 quadcopter, which is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and can carry medical payloads weighing up to about 5 lbs. over distances of up to 12.5 miles.
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, and 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 U.S.
Enhancing the UPS Global Smart Logistics Network to support hospitals and other healthcare organizations remains a key element of the company’s transformation strategy. Healthcare and life science logistics is a priority segment for UPS, and the company is building new relationships and technologies to deliver better patient care with streamlined logistics and supply chain.
This collaboration is the latest UPS program to utilize 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.
About UPS Healthcare
UPS provides global supply chain solutions and expertise to pharmaceutical, biopharma and medical device companies. UPS has approximately 8 million square feet of cGMP- or cGDP-compliant healthcare distribution space. UPS also maintains one of the world’s largest networks of field stocking locations with approximately 900 sites. For parcels requiring strict temperature environments, from CRT to cryogenic, and those requiring around-the-clock monitoring, UPS has solutions such as UPS Temperature True™ and UPS Proactive Response™ services. UPS is committed to expanding its healthcare capabilities including recent acquisitions of Marken, CEMELOG and Poltraf, to meet the complex and evolving supply chain needs of the healthcare and life science sectors. Visit ups.com/healthcare.
Matternet is the developer of the world’s leading technology platform for on-demand aerial delivery in urban environments. The company provides its technology platform as a service to healthcare, e-commerce and logistics organizations. In March 2017, Matternet became the first company in the world to be authorized for full operations of drone logistics networks over densely populated areas in Switzerland. In May 2018, Matternet was selected to carry out drone logistics operations for US hospitals under the FAA’s drone integration program. In June 2018, Matternet formed a strategic partnership with Boeing to shape the next generation of transportation solutions. Matternet is also the exclusive partner of Mercedes-Benz Vans for integrating its drone logistics system with Mercedes-Benz Vans. For more information about Matternet, please visit: https://mttr.net
About WakeMed Health & Hospitals
Serving the community since 1961, WakeMed Health & Hospitals is a nationally recognized, private, not-for-profit health care organization founded and based in Raleigh, N.C. The largest health system in Wake County, WakeMed exists to improve the health and well-being of our community by providing outstanding, compassionate, patient- and family-centered care to all. The 941-bed system comprises a network of facilities throughout the Triangle area, including three full-service hospitals, all delivering health and wellness services that bring added value to the communities we serve. WakeMed is a leader in heart and vascular care, women’s and children’s services, emergency medicine and trauma care, physical rehabilitation, orthopaedics and neurosciences. Specialty facilities include the WakeMed Heart Center, Children’s Hospital, Women’s Pavilion and Birthplace, Women’s Hospital at WakeMed North, WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital, Adult and Children’s Emergency Departments and a Level I Trauma Center. WakeMed’s team of more than 9,100 employees, 1,500 volunteers, 1,300 affiliated physicians, and the more than 525 physicians and providers employed by WakeMed Physician Practices use the most advanced technologies along with the best minds and the biggest hearts to ensure the finest quality in health care and community health. For more information, visit www.wakemed.org or follow WakeMed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
North Carolina’s experiencing tremendous population growth as well as new challenges and opportunities. More emphasis than ever before is on transportation, and that means leveraging all of the state’s transportation infrastructure to ensure a vibrant and healthy economy for future generations. To learn more, click here.