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Drone Delivery Test Event to Focus on Medical Service

June 19, 2015  - By
Image: GPS World

Drone experts will join with those from the medical field in a demonstration July 17 in Wise, Va. The event, “Let’s Fly Wisely,” aims to show how unmanned aerial systems (UAS) can alleviate the problem of health care access while creating economic opportunity for communities.

Many people in Virginia and across rural America are beyond reach of essential health services and basic supplies, ranging from bandages to medicine, according to event organizers. The drones will deliver essential medical supplies to an annual medical clinic held at the Wise County Fairgrounds every summer, organized by Remote Area Medical (RAM) USA and the Health Wagon.

At the clinic, thousands of medical specialists provide free eye, dental and health care services to people in urgent need, in what event organizers say is the largest free health care outreach in the nation.

The UAS used for the demonstration will be a completely autonomous rotorcraft, designed by Flirtey, capable of delivering small payloads of drugs and medical equipment to isolated areas, and a larger, fixed-wing aircraft operated by NASA Langley Research Center, capable of carrying up to 600 pounds of cargo.

The most urgent prescriptions will be provided from pharmacies located out of town, reports Startup Daily. To get the medicine to the community as soon as possible, the pharmacies will deliver them to their local airport, where they will be collected by NASA’s fixed-winged aircraft and flown to Lonesome Pine Airport. When the prescriptions arrive there, they will be loaded onto Flirtey drones and delivered to the Wise County Fairground. Flirtey drones are expected to deliver around 24 packages of prescription medication.

The FAA-approved research flights will put UAS technology to work for medical relief, to show how unmanned aircraft can help health professionals provide care more easily and efficiently, closing the gap between those who can offer medical help and those who need it most.

“In doing so, we will demonstrate the promise of a technology that offers a bright future for our youth — right here in Virginia, where Wise County is rapidly becoming a center for technology manufacturing and testing. We believe Let’s Fly Wisely is much more than a novel use of technology in healthcare. It is an example of the self-reliance, ingenuity and wherewithal of the American people and Virginians in particular,” organizers said.

The collaboration includes nonprofits, universities, corporations and government organizations, including Virginia Tech Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Sciences. The Federal Aviation Administration selected Virginia Tech in December 2013 as one of six national test programs to conduct research on integrating unmanned aircraft into the nation’s airspace.

Other partners include:

  • The Appalachian College of Pharmacy
  • Flirtey, Inc.
  • Health Wagon
  • The Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership
  • NASA Langley Research Center (pending approval of the Space Act agreement between NASA Langley Research Center and Virginia Tech)
  • Remote Area Medical
  • Rx Partnership
  • SEESPAN, Inc.
  • Wise County Economic Development

The video below shows how Australian start-up Flirtey delivers packages with its drones.

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