Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will deliver pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies during research flights at a free medical clinic in Wise, Va., on July 17.
At an event called “Let’s Fly Wisely,” NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and Flirtey Inc., an Australian start-up company specializing in last-mile delivery using UAS, will operate the aircraft. The Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) at Virginia Tech, one of the six Federal Aviation Administration-designed UAS test sites, is overseeing the research flights.NASA will remotely pilot a fixed-wing aircraft to deliver medical supplies to Lonesome Pine Airport. The medical cargo will be transferred in smaller packages to aircraft operated by Flirtey for delivery to the Wise County Fairgrounds. The Flirtey UAS weighs about 10 lbs. and will lower its cargo via tether.
The medical-supply drops will take place during an annual, free clinic run by Remote Area Medical and the Health Wagon, a local healthcare outreach organization. The clinic, held at the fairgrounds, typically serves more than 1,500 patients.
“This is an example of using UAS technology for a socially significant purpose while also opening up economic opportunities,” says Jon Greene, an associate director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech and the acting associate director of MAAP. “It is a win-win solution.”
Members of a news coalition working with Virginia Tech will also participate in research flights to advance uses of UAS in newsgathering. In addition, tethered aircraft operated by SEESPAN Inc., an aerial interactive media start-up, will be capturing video at the event.
“People who need medicine or even stitches too often have to go without because they live in rural areas where transportation can be a challenge,” explains Teresa Gardner, executive director of the Health Wagon. “This technology could open so many doors for our patients and our community.”
Other partners for the Let’s Fly Wisely July event include the Appalachian College of Pharmacy, Rx Partnership and Wise County Economic Development.
“We have been conducting outreach with the youth here over the past three years in aerospace technologies, which offer a new direction for economic growth in this region,” comments Jack Kennedy, the Clerk of Circuit Court for Wise County and the City of Norton. “We want to provide hope for the next generation, and July will be a major milestone.”
More information on Let’s Fly Wisely can be found here.