Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Delivers COVID-19 Vaccines by Drone: UPS Flight Forward and Matternet M2 Deliver Drone
by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian Crosby
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and its enterprise iQ Healthtech Labs, established by the Innovation Quarter, are elevating COVID-19 vaccination efforts with drone deliveries. The first COVID-19 vaccine drone delivery program in the country, this new initiative – managed by UPS Flight Forward and its specially trained operators– expands Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s existing drone program. As one of the first health care institutions in the country to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine via UPS in 2020, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist has provided nearly 100,000 total COVID-19 vaccinations to date.
UPS Flight Forward and Matternet
When in transit, the Matternet M2 drone is equipped with a special cargo box that contains Cold Chain Technologies’ PCM Gel solution, a CDC compliant temperature-sensitive packaging mixture that maintains the COVID-19 vaccine at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, as well as a device that monitors the vaccine’s temperature.
“The WHO estimates that up to 50% of vaccines are wasted globally every year, largely due to temperature control failure,” said Andreas Raptopoulos, CEO of Matternet. “The Matternet M2 drone’s speed and ability to maintain cold chain is especially important at a time of intense Covid-19 vaccine demand and more global approvals of cell and gene therapies and biologics requiring refrigerated and frozen storage than ever before.”
The UPS Flight Forward-operated autonomous drone produces zero operational emissions, and has the ability to deliver any of the COVID-19 vaccines from Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to one of the health system’s family medicine practices located at Piedmont Plaza.
“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, Atrium Health. “The iQ Healthtech Lab team is committed to partnering with industry leaders, like UPS, to better advance healthtech solutions into the marketplace.”
“Distributing and protecting the integrity of the COVID-19 vaccine is our top priority and we’ve successfully completed multiple test flights to ensure that the vaccine remains at the appropriate temperature throughout transit,” said Jennifer Tryon, Pharm.D., Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s chief pharmacy officer. “The ability to use a temperature monitoring device for our COVID-19 vaccine drone delivery program also opens the door for us to transport additional items which require maintenance of the cold chain.”
Since 2020, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist has already expanded its drone program to include lab samples, in addition to the specialty infusions and medications that have been delivered to patients since the program’s start.
“The delivery of COVID-19 vaccines by drone is an exciting and important step for UPS as we continue our near-perfect vaccine service delivery throughout the U.S. and around the world,” said Dan Gagnon, vice president of UPS Healthcare. “We’re providing greater flexibility in how customers, and ultimately patients, receive temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals, which will continue to provide long-term value within the health care industry.”
Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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