On July 14, 2020, Matternet, developer of the world’s leading urban drone logistics platform, announced its M2 drone system is enabling a new hospital delivery network at Wake Forest Baptist Health in North Carolina. In collaboration with UPS Flight Forward (UPSFF), the service 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.
This collaboration with UPS, through UPSFF, will provide a rapid delivery option for time- and temperature-sensitive medical supplies as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) to help keep Wake Forest Baptist’s health care providers safe and improve patient outcomes.
UPSFF begins operating Matternet’s M2 drones from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s central campus in Winston-Salem to other health system locations, marking the US drone delivery industry’s first hub-and-spoke operating model, which launches drones from one central location to multiple locations.
This structure and approach will enable UPSFF and Wake Forest Baptist to potentially add new delivery routes more efficiently than would be possible with a point-to-point delivery operation. Initially, the drones will operate on two routes, with a phased approach planned to allow the program to expand as other opportunities present themselves. Drones will carry scheduled deliveries of specialty infusion medicines. Since these infusion medicines are patient-specific and high-cost, with a short shelf life, delivery by drone within 10 minutes is an ideal solution. Individually compounded medicines will also be delivered on demand to dispense to patients who need real-time access to treatments that are not commercially available. On another route drones will carry personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care providers.
The drones use direct vertical takeoff and landing points, with cargo boxes connected directly to the drone itself at all times while in the air for secure delivery of urgent and sensitive medical items. Specially trained drone operators are stationed onsite to operate the drones and scan the airspace for conflicting air traffic.
The service at Wake Forest Baptist operates under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Part 107 rules and uses Matternet’s M2 drone system. Last year, UPS and Matternet initiated the first ongoing revenue-generating drone delivery service at WakeMed’s flagship hospital campus in Raleigh and have flown more than 2,000 flights as part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s participation in the FAA’s Integration Pilot Program. UPSFF has also initiated similar services on other U.S. health care campuses.
UPS launched UPS Flight Forward last year and later earned the FAA’s standard Part 135 Standard certification to operate a drone airline. UPS has worked with innovative drone technology partners and aviation regulators for years to advance the use of drones for delivery.
Matternet has been operating in the US since August 2018. In partnership with UPSFF, the companies initiated the first ongoing revenue-generating drone delivery service at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, NC in 2019. Since then, more than 2,200 deliveries (4,400 flights) of lab samples have been completed. The new service at Wake Forest Baptist Health, as well as WakeMed, are part of North Carolina Department of Transportation’s participation in the FAA’s Integration Pilot Program (IPP).
Sources: Matternet, Wake Forest Baptist Health, and IQ Healthtech Labs