What You Should Know:
– UPS, together with its UPS Flight Forward (UPSFF) subsidiary, announced it is now making COVID-19 vaccine deliveries via drone for Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, using new cold chain packaging developed specifically for drones.
– The announcement marks the first COVID-19 vaccine drone delivery in the U.S. and is an extension of current work for Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. UPS’s drone airline received first-of-kind approval from the FAA to carry alkaline and lithium batteries, which are needed to power temperature monitoring devices required by the CDC for COVID-19 vaccine transport.
Drone with UPS Flight Forward
When transporting the COVID-19 vaccines, the Matternet M2 drone is outfitted with a special cargo box that contains Cold Chain Technologies’ customized PCM Gel solution, a temperature-sensitive packaging mixture that maintains the COVID-19 vaccine at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, and a temperature monitoring device that monitors the vaccine’s temperature while in transit. The customized cold chain packaging follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on the handling, storage and transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The UPS Flight Forward-operated drone, which flies autonomously and produces zero operational emissions, has the capability to deliver any of the COVID-19 vaccines from Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to one of the health system’s family medicine practices located at Piedmont Plaza.
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist was one of the first health care institutions in the country to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine via UPS on Monday, Dec., 14, 2020. To date, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist has provided nearly 100,000 total COVID-19 vaccinations to its employees, patients and members of the community.
Throughout the past year, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist has already expanded its environmentally sustainable drone services program to include lab samples, in addition to the specialty infusion and individually compounded medications that have been delivered to patients since the program’s inception.
“Distributing and protecting the integrity of the COVID-19 vaccine is our top priority and we’ve successfully completed multiple test flights to ensure that the vaccine remains at the appropriate temperature throughout transit,” said Jennifer Tryon, Pharm.D., chief pharmacy officer at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. “The ability to use a temperature monitoring device for our COVID-19 vaccine drone delivery program also opens the door for us to transport additional items which require maintenance of the cold chain.”