by Michael Willoughby
UPS has announced the expansion of its industry-leading drone delivery service. UPS Flight Forward will now begin drone flights at the University of Utah Health campus in Salt Lake City. The University of Utah is the first hospital campus expansion after the service was launched at WakeMed’s flagship hospital in Raleigh, N.C. The WakeMed program announced in March marked the first FAA-sanctioned use of a drone for routine revenue flights in the U.S. In September, UPS’s drone airline subsidiary, UPS Flight Forward, received the first-ever FAA’s Part 135 Standard certification awarded in the United States, which gives UPS and Matternet flexibility to rapidly scale hospital operations.
Drone transportation for healthcare logistics creates substantial opportunities for enhanced patient care and cost savings. Currently, the majority of medical samples, instruments, supplies and documents at University of Utah Health are transported by courier cars. Drones provide the capability for on-demand and same-day delivery, the ability to avoid roadway delays, increase medical delivery efficiency, and improve the patient experience with potentially life-saving benefits.
“UPS is rapidly expanding drone delivery, next-generation tracking tools and other technologies to help the health care industry solve logistics problems, enhance efficiency and deliver improved patient outcomes,” said Scott Price, Chief Transformation and Strategy Officer at UPS. We are transforming the company’s Smart Global Logistics Network by using the latest innovation to bring new value to customers.”
Flight operations at University of Utah Health will be geared toward building out a more cost-efficient medical delivery system as the campus undergoes tremendous growth. New medical construction includes its new Acute Care Center, Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital, and Sugar House Health Center. The addition of drone logistics will help establish an environmentally responsible, short-range transportation solution in support of the state’s Utah Clean Air partnership.
University of Utah Health hails itself as the Mountain West’s only academic healthcare system, which provides care for Utahns and residents of five surrounding states. With more than 5,000 healthcare professionals in the network, drones can enable staff to focus more on care services vs. courier services, and better support rural area healthcare needs as drone transportation services expand.
Standard transport protocols will include medical professionals packing a secure drone payload container with medical items. The drones will then fly autonomously along a predetermined flight path to its delivery point.
Matternet’s unmanned drone system on the Utah medical campus, and also WakeMed, will fly under the FAA’s Part 135 Standard certification granted to UPS on Sept. 27, which makes UPS Flight Forward the first company to attain this key certification. More than 1,500 flights have been completed on the WakeMed campus since operations began there. UPS and Matternet expect to rapidly expand health campus drone deliveries to other locations in the near future as part of UPS Flight Forward’s new technology services in support of hospital logistics.
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