AP

Hospital using drones to fly blood samples between buildings

Mar 27, 2019, 5:49 AM | Updated: 5:50 am

Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos walks next to an operator carrying a drone used for delivery of m...

Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos walks next to an operator carrying a drone used for delivery of medical specimens after a flight at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 26, 2019. Matternet and UPS partnered with the hospital to start commercial flights of medical samples across the WakeMed campus. (AP Photo/Jonathan Drew)

(AP Photo/Jonathan Drew)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A pioneering use of drones to fly blood samples across a North Carolina hospital campus launched Tuesday in the latest move to expand their roles in business and health care.

The short trips between WakeMed buildings in Raleigh mark the first time the Federal Aviation Administration has allowed regular commercial flights of drones carrying products, according to UPS and drone company Matternet, which partnered with the hospital on the program.

“This is a turning point, and it’s an historic moment because this is the first FAA-sanctioned use of a (drone) for routine revenue-generating flights,” Bala Ganesh, vice president of UPS’ advanced technology group, said in an interview before the announcement.

The FAA confirmed in a statement Monday that it hadn’t previously allowed drones to make routine commercial package deliveries, known as revenue flights. Others have flown drone deliveries as part of smaller-scale tests or demonstrations.

The WakeMed program will start by flying patients’ medical samples one-third of a mile (.5 kilometer) from a medical park to the main hospital building for lab testing at least six times a day five days a week, Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos said in an interview. Vials of blood or other specimens will be loaded into a secure box and carried to a drone launching pad, where they will be fastened to the aircraft and flown to another building. He said the flights will technically be within sight of operators on either end of the route, and they are authorized to fly above people.

The aim is to cut down on the time it takes to transport the time-sensitive samples typically driven on the ground.

“This is going to bring tremendous benefit to health care,” he said in an interview. “Health care is one of these domains of commercial activity where being fast really matters.”

The announcement doesn’t mean routine physical checkups this year or next will feature unmanned aircraft whizzing into your internist’s office to speed along your cholesterol results, experts say.

But the North Carolina program could expand to flying miles-long routes between Raleigh-area WakeMed buildings in the coming months, Raptopoulos said. He also said medical specimen flights could start at one or two more hospitals in other cities later in 2019.

North Carolina is one of nine sites participating in the FAA’s pilot program to accelerate integrating drones for new uses ranging from utility inspections to insurance claims. The test sites get leeway trying new innovations while working closely with the federal officials in charge of regulating the drones.

At other program test sites, drone operators recently delivered ice pops to doorsteps in a Virginia neighborhood, and officials in Reno, Nevada, are in early testing of a program to deliver defibrillators to people having health emergencies.

The Nevada defibrillator project has so far been testing at a rural site and hasn’t begun home deliveries, said Rebecca Venis, the city’s communications director. The approval process for drone flights of medical devices or supplies is complex because they may contain hazardous materials.

“It’s different than dropping a package,” she said.

Mark Blanks, the director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, also said the approval to fly commercial drones can be a significant achievement.

“It’s not a safety piece; it’s an economic licensing portion,” he said.

Colin Snow of the drone research firm Skylogic said it remains to be seen how cost-effective medical drone deliveries will be. He said regulatory hurdles and the significant costs of establishing the programs could hinder their wide rollout across the country.

“It just goes down to the old adage: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” he said. “They’re cool, headline-making tests. But when you get down to … the economics of logistics, that’s a different matter.”
___
Follow Jonathan Drew at www.twitter.com/JonathanLDrew

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

AP

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night ...

MEG KINNARD and WILL WEISSERT Associated Press

Trump wins South Carolina, easily beating Haley in her home state and closing in on GOP nomination

Donald Trump won South Carolina's Republican primary on Saturday further consolidating his path to a third straight GOP nomination.

7 hours ago

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, center, sits with her attorney Jason Bowles, left, during the first day of t...

MORGAN LEE Associate Press

Negligence or scapegoating? Trial of ‘Rust’ armorer begins in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

Prosecutors sought to pin blame on a movie weapons supervisor for bringing live ammunition on set that contributed to the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin during production of the film "Rust."

2 days ago

A pail rests next to caution tape on a beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2...

Associated Press

Young girl killed when a hole she dug in the sand collapsed on a Florida beach, authorities said

A young girl died Tuesday when a deep hole she was digging collapsed on her at a south Florida beach, authorities said.

4 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018....

MEAD GRUVER Associated Press

A Colorado man is dead after a pet Gila monster bite

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death if the creature's venom was the cause.

4 days ago

Visitors stand at the closed gates leading to the Eiffel Tower, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024 in Paris....

OLEG CETINIC Associated Press

Eiffel Tower operator warns the landmark is closed as strike turns visitors away for a second day

A strike at the Eiffel Tower over poor financial management turned away visitors on Tuesday for the second consecutive day.

4 days ago

capitol one building...

KEN SWEET AP Business Writer

Capital One to buy Discover for $35 billion in deal that combines major US credit card companies

Capital One Financial is buying Discover Financial Services for $35 billion, in a deal that would bring together two of the nation's biggest lenders and credit card issuers.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Hospital using drones to fly blood samples between buildings