Matternet expands health delivery drone services in the USA

There is no question about how terribly COVID-19 has upended lived lives all over the world since the beginning of the year. Nearly 14million people infected worldwide; 650,000 lives lost; and countless in number whose economic prospects have been dashed.

It has indeed been a trying time for humans.

Amid this chaos, thoough, drones have been quietly earning their stripes as a reliable means delivering emergency medical implements in record time. Zipline now boasts of well over 100,000 deliveries in Ghana, Rwanda and the USA; Wingcopter have been working hard in Malawi, while Skyports introduced their service to the United Kingdom.

On Tuesday, US urban drone logistics platform developer, Matternet, announced its M2 drone system is opening 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 in the area.

Hub-and-Spoke is a flight operating system mainly in the USA, where flights pass through a main airport, before taking off to other less busier airport centres. Thus, the smaller airports will be like a spoke on a bike wheel, flying into the main airport for connecting flights to other spokes.

Thus, Matternet and UPSFF will be using Wake Forest Baptist Health as a hub to two other health system locations, marking one of the first hub-and-spoke operating models for the U.S. drone delivery industry. 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 an ideal solution.

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.

“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.”

Matternet CEO, Andreas Raptopoulos said; “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. We are thrilled to expand our partnership with UPSFF to other U.S. 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 U.S. 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, North Caroline in 2019. Since then, more than 2,200 deliveries of lab samples have been completed in double the amount of flights. 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).

Matternet’s technology is also enabling UPSFF to provide 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 new 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, extremely fast and predictable aerial delivery.

Matternet provides-in-class technology for on-demand, aerial delivery in urban environments. The company offers its technology platform-as-a-service to healthcare and logistics organizations. it also has operations in Switzerland, which it started in 2017.

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