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Rural North Carolina residents will soon get their meds delivered by drone

Drug maker Merck and drone developer Volansi are teaming up to make it happen.
Andrew Tarantola, @terrortola
October 20, 2020
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Drones have already shown that they can reliably deliver vital shipments of blood across Rwanda, drop off prescriptions to senior citizens in Florida, and help quarantining families stay safe with contactless deliveries. Now they’re going to be buzzing through the skies of rural North Carolina thanks to a novel delivery service devised by drug-maker Merck and drone-maker Volansi.

The plan is simple: use Volansi’s 7-foot long “Gemini” quadcopter to ferry packages of cold chain medicines — such as vaccines, glaucoma treatments, insulin, and asthma inhalers — from Merck’s Wilson, NC drug lab to the Vidant Healthplex-Wilson. This medical network serves more than 1.4 million people across 29 counties in eastern North Carolina.

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Volansi

"We've seen the world's supply chain strained like never before from the impact of Coronavirus," said Hannan Parvizian, CEO of Volansi, said in a press statement. "There’s now an accelerated need for rapid advancements in supply chain technology, especially in healthcare. Drone delivery is one solution to getting critical supplies where they are needed, at the moment they are needed most."

The Gemini drones are VTOL aircraft with a maximum range of 50 miles and a maximum airspeed of 60 mph. They can hoist up to 10 pounds at a time using their quartet of electric propellers. What’s more, the delivery process is largely autonomous as the Gemini are capable enough to automatically release their hold on packages as soon as they touch down in the designated landing zone. Volansi is already working with the FAA to expand this program with two additional phases that would see deliveries spread out to a much wider service area.

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