UPS begins delivering COVID-19 vaccines with Matternet drones to a hospital in North Carolina. Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist medical center is believed to be the first in the country to receive COVID-19 vaccine deliveries by drone.
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and its healthtech business enterprise operated through the Innovation Quarter, iQ Healthtech Labs, are taking COVID-19 vaccination efforts to new heights with drone deliveries – the first COVID-19 vaccine drone delivery program in the country.
This new initiative operated by UPS and its subsidiary, UPS Flight Forward expands Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s existing drone program, which was launched in July 2020. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 50 percent of vaccines are wasted globally every year, largely due to temperature control failure, Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos said in a statement.
“The ability and ingenuity to add an innovative layer to our health care supply chain by transporting COVID-19 vaccines via drone provides us with additional rapid delivery options for these time- and temperature-sensitive vaccines,” said Conrad Emmerich, senior vice president of supply chain at Atrium Health.“The iQ Healthtech Lab team is committed to partnering with industry leaders, like UPS, to better advance healthtech solutions into the marketplace.”
When transporting the COVID-19 vaccines, the Matternet M2 drone is outfitted with a special cargo box that contains Cold Chain Technologies’ customized PCM Gel solution, a temperature-sensitive packaging mixture that maintains the COVID-19 vaccine at 2 degrees to 8 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees to 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
India- based RattanIndia Enterprises recently invested in US based drone logistics platform Matternet.
It also uses a temperature-monitoring device that monitors the vaccine’s temperature while in transit. The customized cold-chain packaging follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on the handling, storage, and transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine, the companies said.
The autonomous flight is overseen by UPS Flight Forward’s specially trained operators, who are stationed onsite to inspect the Matternet M2 aircraft prior to takeoff and scan the airspace for air traffic.