Topic: Drone companies are preparing to deliver COVID vaccines in rural U.S.
While more than one-third of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, there are still millions of people who have yet to receive a single dose.
Reasons for not getting a shot vary — some don’t want one at all, while others say they’ll wait a bit longer to decide. And then, there are people who want to get vaccinated but are in too remote of an area to get to a typical vaccination site.
They include people working on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico or living in rural areas miles from the nearest doctor’s office or pharmacy. Drone companies are positioning themselves to deliver refrigerated medical products to those people. If the plans don’t pan out in time to combat the coronavirus crisis, then they hope to be set up to assist swiftly in the world’s next big health scare.
Saskatoon, Canada-based Draganfly and San Francisco-based Volansi are among the firms operating drones in the United States right now with medical delivery partnerships.
Draganfly has been around since the 1990s and will begin test flights with coronavirus vaccines in Texas next month with Coldchain Technology Services, a health care supply chain management company. Volansi, founded in 2015, has been running drones carrying other refrigerated medicines and vaccines with Merck in North Carolina since October.
Drones tend to be faster and cheaper at handling smaller payloads to remote locations than either trucks or helicopters, according to Wayne Williams, executive director at Coldchain, which is headquartered in Spring Branch, Texas.
“If I have to get a lifesaving vaccine to somewhere that’s about [300 miles] from here, I have to find a courier, get them on the road, and it can take up to seven hours to get it delivered. If I put the package on a drone, I’m still able to track it, and it gets there sooner for a lot less money,” Williams said.
Coldchain recently announced plans to spend $750,000 on Draganfly’s equipment to ship medical supplies and COVID-19 vaccines on an experimental basis to nearby locations.
Unmanned aerial vehicles are shaping up to assist during the pandemic in other ways, too. Draganfly developed a system that can measure people’s vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure from a drone. Drones from the Chinese manufacturer DJI have been used to monitor social distancing in Elizabeth, New Jersey, over the past year. Meanwhile, more than a few firms have announced disinfecting drones to spray potentially contaminated zones from above.
Topic Discussed: Drone companies are preparing to deliver COVID vaccines in rural U.S.