Updated: Feb 24
Logistics leader UPS and drone maker Matternet have announced a groundbreaking logistics service to deliver medical samples via drone across WakeMed, a major healthcare system in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is the first FAA sanctioned use of a drone system for routine revenue flights in the US and will also have oversight from the North Carolina Department of Transport. 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. (2.27 kg) over distances of up to 12.5 miles (20km). 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. Until now, most medical samples and specimens have been transported across WakeMed’s campus and network by courier cars. Heralding a significant milestone in unmanned aviation, 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. The Matternet team had already completed more than 3,000 flights for healthcare systems in Switzerland.