NCDOT, partners to use drones to deliver medical supplies, food in the Triangle, Charlotte

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina Department of Transportation officials announced Wednesday a public-private partnership that will use drones to deliver food and critical medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NCDOT’s Division of Aviation and its partners will host an online public forum on Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. for those interested in the initiative.

RELATED: Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

You can visit the NCDOT’s Public Meetings website to register to participate in the online meeting.

“North Carolina has been a leader in demonstrating how drones can help people in times of crisis,” said State Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette in a press release. “We look forward to putting this technology into productive use as we work to help citizens and medical professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The initiative will be launched in May and officials are hoping to apply lessons learned from the effort to other drone relief efforts nationwide, the release stated.

The NCDOT and its partners are planning to launch three projects to provide COVID-19 relief. According to the press release, the projects are as follows:

1) In the Charlotte area, Zipline and Novant Health will deliver personal protective equipment and other medical equipment across Novant’s medical campuses.

2) In Raleigh and Garner, WakeMed, UPS and Matternet are planning to start using a drone to deliver non-COVID-19-related supplies and equipment between WakeMed’s main hospital in Raleigh and the WakeMed Garner Healthplex. This will free up their delivery drivers to focus on fighting COVID-19.

3) In Holly Springs, Flytrex is planning to deliver food from multiple restaurants in a shopping center to nearby neighborhoods.

“The first two programs are aimed at reducing the strain on medical supply chains, and the third will make it easier for people to follow the stay-at-home order,” officials said.

Data collected during the project will help to determine how the technology can be used in other areas of the country. Funding for the individual drone missions is coming from the private partners, while NCDOT is coordinating the project.

Friday’s forum will be recorded, so anyone unable to participate live can tune in later using a link on the NCDOT’s Public Meetings website.

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