Rural pop-up hospital gets America's first drone delivery

The first FAA-ok'd parcel delivery by drone took place in rural Virginia on Friday at Wise County, Virginia's annual Remote Area Hospital. The RAH pops up every summer in Wise, which is deep in Appalachia, as a makeshift field hospital that treats hundreds of uninsured area residents for free. This year, the event's organizers, Remote Area Medical, sought to explore the roles of emerging technology in humanitarian crises and, to that end, had Australian startup Flirtey drop off 10 pounds of supplies.

The test involved first flying the prescriptions for 20 patients in from Tazewell County Airport to Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise County aboard a self-navigating Cirrus SR22 from NASA. A pilot was onboard in case the autonomous flight system failed. The drugs were then loaded onto a quadcopter from Flirtey which flew them the last mile in to the fairgrounds where the hospital was set up. The drone needed six circuits in all to deliver its entire cargo but completed its task successfully. FAA approval for these sorts of flights is still pending. This was actually part of a series of test flights by the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, which seeks ways to incorporate UAVs into America's air traffic.

[Image Credit: top - Vimeo screen capture (2014); inline - FlugKerl2]