UPS’ program on WakeMed Hospital’s Raleigh campus in N.C. is first drone delivery service cleared by FAA for commercial purposes

UPS (NYSE:UPS) Chairman and CEO David Abney emphasizes patients, not packages, in the company’s new drive toward drone technology in medical laboratory specimen transport and logistics.

Abney closed Day 1 sessions of the 24th Annual Executive War College on Lab and Pathology Management (EWC) which continues through Thursday in New Orleans.

“Healthcare is a strategic imperative for us,” Abney said. “We deliver a lot of important things, but lab [shipments] are critical, and they’re very much a part of patient care.”

UPS entered the healthcare sector in 2000 with its acquisition of Livingston HealthCare. In 2016, the company acquired Marken, a move that Abney said, “sent a clear message to our customers that we were taking healthcare and clinical trials very seriously.”

UPS Chairman and CEO David Abney (above) explained the company’s new drive toward drone technology in medical laboratory specimen transport and logistics. Abney closed Day 1 sessions at the 24th Annual Executive War College on Lab and Pathology Management. (Photo copyright: DARK Daily.)

Clinical Laboratory Specimens Delivered by Drone

With healthcare deliveries already a big part of UPS’ ground business, the company now moves lab specimens by drone on WakeMed’s hospital campus in Raleigh, N.C. The effort marks the first commercial daily drone service to be cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for lab specimen transport, and it is made possible through UPS’s new partnership with Menlo Park, Calif.-based Matternet.

Matternet Founder and CEO Andreas Raptopoulos described how the new technology is impacting turnaround time, specimen stability, and viability. The “Future of Lab Logistics” session at EWC, featuring Raptopoulos and Shannon DeMar, Senior Marketing Manager Healthcare Strategy at UPS in Atlanta, Ga., brought questions about FAA regulations, risk mitigation, and more. Laboratory leaders are looking at how to take their logistics to the next level.

On-Demand/Same-Day Delivery of Medical Lab Samples

The UPS/Matternet program represents a major milestone for unmanned aviation in the United States, according to UPS, in a recent release. Currently, the majority of medical samples and specimens are transported across WakeMed’s expanding health system by courier cars. The addition of drone transport provides an option for on-demand and same-day delivery, the ability to avoid roadway delays, increase medical delivery efficiency, lower costs, and improve the patient experience.

North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), which is working to leverage drones to expand healthcare access for the residents of North Carolina, supported Matternet in conducting first-round test flights using the company’s drone technology on WakeMed’s campus in August 2018 as part of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP).

More to Come at EWC 2019

How drones, sensors, and new technologies are poised to increase the quality and accuracy of specimen transport and logistics represented just a slice of the first full day of sessions at Executive War College. UPS is an official partner and sponsor.

Also speaking at the 24th Annual Executive War College on Lab and Pathology Management:

Evolving market trends are creating both concern and opportunities for the clinical laboratory industry. New sources of revenue are essential at a time when fee-for-service prices for lab tests are decreasing.

Early registration is already open for 2020 Executive War College, happening April 28-29, in New Orleans.

Liz Carey

Related Information:

WakeMed Uses Drone to Deliver Patient Specimens

24th Annual Executive War College on Lab and Pathology Management

UPS Drones Are Now Moving Blood Samples Over North Carolina

UPS Partners with Matternet to Transport Medical Samples Via Drone Across Hospital System in Raleigh, N.C.