Volansi launches drone delivery programme to deliver medicines in North Carolina
American UAV logistics company Volansi has launched a commercial healthcare drone delivery programme in rural North Carolina. The company known to use VTOL drones for middle-mile drone delivery is collaborating with Merck to pilot the delivery of cold chain medicines from Merck’s Wilson, N.C. manufacturing site to Vidant Healthplex-Wilson, a Vidant Health clinic. It will be the first of three phases in the project which has been undertaken to understand the benefit of drone technology to improve access to healthcare.
In 29 counties, North Carolina has around 1.4 million people and the rural landscape makes it difficult for timely medical aid to reach the patients, stressing on the importance of the program. “We’ve seen the world’s supply chain strained like never before from the impact of Coronavirus,” said Hannan Parvizian, CEO and co-founder of Volansi. He added, “There’s now an accelerated need for rapid advancements in supply chain technology, especially in healthcare. Drone delivery is one solution to getting critical supplies where they are needed, at the moment they are needed most.”
The project utilizes Volansi’s VOLY C10, an all-electric drone capable of carrying 10-pounds of cargo to locations up to 50 miles away. The VOLY C10’s vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) system allows it to deliver fragile cargo with a “soft touch” automated release once the drone has landed at the delivery location. The system also requires minimal infrastructure to operate and is also capable of delivering on the returning flight items to support order confirmation like temperature trackers and shipping confirmation.
“As a healthcare leader, Merck is very supportive of collaborations using new technologies to explore how one day we could help better serve the healthcare community. Our existing distribution system is strong, and this pilot helps us explore new innovative delivery options that would complement our existing supply chain capabilities,” said Craig Kennedy, senior vice president, Global Supply Chain Management, Merck.
“At Vidant Health, innovation and collaboration help us increase access to care and meet our mission to improve health and well-being across eastern North Carolina,” said Brian Floyd, chief operating officer, Vidant. He added, “This project with Merck and Volansi is the beginning of an exciting endeavor to explore additional ways we can meet the unique needs of those we serve.”
While Volansi has launched the programme, they are ensuring that all the state and federal guidelines are followed by collaborating with the Federal Aviation Administration’s in its Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Programme and the North Carolina Department of Transportation. They are also already seeking necessary permissions for the second and third phase of the project.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that Volansi has collaborated with Merck, as they have also helped deliver temperature-sensitive medicine in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. Highlighting that the future of healthcare lies in drone logistics, Parvizian in a Volansi blog post added, “I believe that drone delivery is a key solution for getting critical supplies whenever and wherever they are needed.” He also said that the programme will help them understand how the supply chains can be made more flexible and responsive, especially because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has emphasised the need for rapid advancements in supply chain technology.