Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

UPS drones enable Covid-19 medical deliveries

Steve Rogerson
July 28, 2020

UPS Flight Forward is using drones from California-based Matternet to enable a hospital delivery network at Wake Forest Baptist Health in North Carolina.
The M2 drone system will use a hub-and-spoke routing model to provide rapid delivery of time-and temperature-sensitive medicines and supplies, including PPE for medical professionals treating Covid-19 patients.
Matternet and UPS have started operating on two routes from one location at Wake Forest Baptist Health to two other health system locations, marking one of the first hub-and-spoke operating models for the US drone delivery industry.
"Increasing efficiency of our supply chain routes helps provide better service to our patients and their families," said Conrad Emmerich, chief supply chain officer at Wake Forest Baptist Health. "Partnering with UPS Flight Forward through our IQ Healthtech Labs opens new doors for us to do just that through drone delivery."
One route will transport scheduled deliveries of specialty infusion medicines. These medicines are patient-specific, high-cost and have a short shelf life, making delivery by drone within minutes ideal. The second route will transport on-demand supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as surgical masks for medical professionals in their fight against Covid-19.
"Now more than ever it's important for hospitals to have reliable, predictable and efficient methods for transporting critical medicines and time-sensitive lab samples that need results quickly," said Andreas Raptopoulos, CEO of Matternet. "We are thrilled to expand our partnership with UPS FF to other US hospitals and work with Wake Forest Baptist to implement our drone logistics network that will help transform their operations and patient care."
Matternet has been operating in the USA since August 2018. In partnership with UPS FF, the companies initiated the first on-going revenue-generating drone delivery service at WakeMed's flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2019. Since then, more than 2200 deliveries (4400 flights) of lab samples have been completed. The new service at Wake Forest Baptist Health, as well as WakeMed, are part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation's participation in the FAA's integration pilot programme.
Matternet's technology is also enabling UPS to provide a drone delivery service of prescription medicines for a retirement community in Florida. The service provides an option for seniors at higher risk for the coronavirus infection to receive prescriptions without going to a store.
Earlier this year, Matternet unveiled its Matternet Station, an intuitive user interface for sending and receiving medical payloads, and a safe and secure drone portal for hospital campuses. The station gives hospitals and their supply partners the ability to integrate automated drone delivery into their laboratory and pharmacy operations. Hospitals can now move blood diagnostics, pathology specimens and medicine between their facilities and suppliers with secure, fast and predictable aerial delivery.
Matternet develops technology for on-demand, aerial delivery in urban environments. The company provides its technology platform-as-a-service to healthcare and logistics organisations. In 2017, it became the first company in the world to be authorised for full operations of drone logistics networks over cities in Switzerland. In 2019, Matternet and UPS announced a partnership to provide drone delivery services to US healthcare systems.