How WakeMed’s unprecedented medical package drone delivery system looks to close the healthcare availability gap

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Just more than a year ago WakeMed in Raleigh launched the nation’s first medical package drone delivery system.  

Partnered with United Parcel Service lab samples are attached to a drone and flown from one area of the hospital campus to another.  “And we already see growth around the country, and I think that’s a really important moment. We have a lot of questions to answer as an emerging industry about how we grow the technology, how we respond to our communities and how we do that ethically and sustainability” said Dr. Stuart Ginn a WakeMed head and neck surgeon.

The hope is to eventually use the same technology to help provide easier access to healthcare in both urban and rural areas.  

“This is a technology that could actually help drive that, finally,” said Dr. Ginn.

“A person who maybe is lower-income and doesn’t have the ability to drive to some pharmacy to pick up their drugs for example and if we can drive the cost down we have the ability to deliver that straight to them,” said Todd Spain.

Spain is leading an effort to bring together partners from all over the state. Partners currently include the Wireless Research Center, The Stone Agency and Cherokee Nation Business.  

“This is not going to come overnight. There are going to be lots and lots of rules put in place,” Spain added.  “The Advanced Mobility Collective is tackling regulatory and safety hurdles before such a program can become widely used,” Spain explained. “There will be all kinds of fail-safe systems, municipalities are going to have to get very much engaged soon to start thinking about how airspace will be managed above our communities”.

The effort comes as the commercial sector is also testing the use of drones and advances in 5G technology promise to improve reliability.  

For medical providers like Dr. Ginn, it’s simply about keeping his patients healthy.  

“Closing those gaps in their everyday lives and basically pushing the care and services to them on their terms is what’s really exciting to me,” he said.

Advanced Mobility Collective is also working on other projects that include food delivery, air taxi, air ambulance service, and robotic transportation systems in smart cities.  

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