Drone companies planning to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to rural areas

Drone companies are preparing to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to help vaccinate people living in remote areas who struggle to get access to a shot, The Washington Post reported May 19. 

Millions of people still haven't received a single COVID-19 vaccine, including those living in rural areas miles from a physician's office or pharmacy. Drone companies say they can assist in reaching those people. 

Draganfly, a company based in Saskatoon, Canada, and Volansi, a San Francisco-based company, are some of the drone companies with medical delivery partnerships in the U.S., the Post reported. 

Draganfly was created in the 1990s and will begin test flights with COVID-19 vaccines in Texas next month in partnership with Coldchain Technology Services, a healthcare supply chain management company. 

Volansi was founded in 2015 and has been flying drones carrying other types of refrigerated medicines and vaccines in partnership with Merck since last October, the Post reported. 

Drones tend to be faster and cheaper when it comes to transporting smaller deliveries to remote locations, compared to trucks or helicopters, Wayne Williams, executive director at Coldchain Technology Services, told the Post

"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," he said.

Coldchain announced last week plans to spend $750,000 on Draganfly's equipment to ship medical supplies and COVID-19 vaccines on an experimental basis to nearby locations, the Post reported. The company plans to work with the Federal Aviation Administration this summer to gain approval for delivery routes in Texas. 

Draganfly said it has COVID-19 vaccine customers ready to receive deliveries if testing works out this summer, the Post reported. 

Coldchain has created a 12-inch, cube-shaped container to ship COVID-19 vaccines using Draganfly's drones, the Post reported. The boxes can hold roughly 600 to 1,500 vaccine vials and can maintain the ultralow temperatures required by Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines. 

Volansi began commercial flights in October in Wilson, N.C., delivering pneumonia and hepatitis vaccines in partnership with Merck, according to the Post. It hasn't transported any COVID-19 vaccines, though Hannan Parvizian, the company's CEO, told the Post that "Our payload boxes are designed specifically to carry covid vaccine types."

The companies told the Post they are laying the groundwork today so they can work more quickly during future healthcare crises.

"This won't be the last vaccine that needs to be distributed," Cameron Chell, CEO of Draganfly, told the Post. "But next time as a society, we're going to respond much quicker."

Read the full article here.


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