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America: UPS delivers first Covid-19 vaccines by drone

By Chris Stonor

Shipping giant UPS announced, this week, it has started carrying out its first Covid-19 vaccine deliveries by drone in the U.S, reports

UPS Flight Forward is making deliveries on the campus of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Matternet M2 drone deployed, offers the prospect of a quicker way to deliver sensitive medical shipments, particularly to remote or rural areas.

The hospital transports the vaccines by drone from its central pharmacy to family medicine practices around its medical centre campus. Drone operators inspect the Matternet M2 before take-off and then scan the airspace for air traffic.

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The drones carry temperature-monitoring devices that operate with alkaline and lithium batteries that passed FAA safety approvals. This special temperature-controlled packaging was developed by Cold Chain Technologies.

Dan Gagnon, the UPS Healthcare Vice President of Global Marketing said in a written statement, “The implications extend far beyond Covid-19. The technology can also be used for clinical trial shipments, pharmaceuticals and other biologics that have to be kept at cold temperatures.”

Dan Gagnon

These vaccine drone deliveries are an expansion of a partnership UPS and Wake Forest Baptist launched in July 2020 to transport urgent items, including medicines that have a short shelf life.

UPS previously delivered Covid-19 vaccines by drone in Ghana,  Africa as part of a partnership with vaccine alliance Gavi.

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