AT&T, Merck pilot drones to deliver medical supplies to Puerto Rico

Three companies successfully completed a proof-of-concept project to deliver medical supplies to Puerto Rico — which is still recovering from the 2017 hurricane season — using drones.

The project brought together "internet of things" technology from AT&T and a temperature control packaging system from Softbox, dubbed Skypod, to deliver medications developed by Merck. Together, the companies fitted an internet-connected drone with Skypod, which uses sensors to report data on temperature, location and potential tampering to ensure medications arrive safely to their destination.

AT&T and Softbox, a U.K.-based tech company that provides temperature control packaging to pharmaceutical manufacturers, adapted the Skypod system from a prototype developed at AT&T Foundry, a network of innovation centers that connects startups with technology providers.

The companies hope the success of the pilot project showcases how IoT technology can be used to deliver vital medicines in the wake of natural disasters.

"The drone test flights give us hope that we will be able to provide a reliable supply of our medicines for disaster," Brenda Colatrella, executive director of corporate responsibility at Merck, said in a news release.

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