Outside Charlotte, North Carolina, white drones that resemble tiny airplanes are being loaded with personal protective equipment and launched into the skies to help a local hospital respond to Covid-19. The drones, which have an 11-foot wingspan, fly over neighborhoods, a reservoir and an Interstate highway at speeds of 63 mph on their way to Huntersville Medical Center.
Once there, a compartment in the drone opens, and a package falls toward the ground. A parachute on the package deploys so the deliveries land gently on a gravel lot as the drone returns to the hospital’s distribution center for another mission. These deliveries will play out about 10 times a day.
Novant Health, which operates 15 hospitals in the Southeast, including Huntersville Medical Center, has no shortage of existing delivery options. But it’s testing drones because it believes they may be helpful in future health crises.
Delivering medical supplies can be more challenging following a natural disaster or geopolitical unrest, according to Angela Yochem, chief digital and technology officer at Novant Health.
“We need to be prepared to break down barriers associated with access to supplies, access to care,” Yochem said. “If realtime delivery, on-demand delivery of critical supplies is necessary to save lives, we want to do that.”