A partnership between German drone manufacturer Wingcopter and air medical service provider Air Methods may soon launch the first drone based, healthcare-specific delivery network across the United States.
Dubbed Spright, the network would battle the lack of immediate or timely access to healthcare resources such as blood, medicines, diagnostics and small medical devices. Air Methods will deploy fleets of Wingcopter’s new flagship delivery drone, the Wingcopter 198, and integrate them into the company’s existing infrastructure of more than 300 bases serving hundreds of hospitals across 48 states in predominantly in rural areas.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated some of the real challenges in our health care system creating an opportunity to find better solutions to extend access to healthcare, especially in rural America,” Air Methods CEO JaeLynn Williams said.
“That is why we are doing what Air Methods does best, taking to the skies, using the latest in technology and drone innovation, delivering hope and facilitating healing with speed and efficiency that was previously unimaginable. We see Spright serving a vastly underserved market and playing a huge role in a future full of better outcomes for everyone.”
Kansas Pilot Project
Spright is scheduled to take off this fall by partnering with Hutchinson Regional Medical System in Kansas with the launch of an initial pilot project using Wingcopter’s delivery drones. The drones’ tilt-rotor technology facilitates vertical take-off and landing with forward flight over ranges of up to 68 miles with a maximum speed of 90 mph and payloads of up to 13 pounds.
“We are thrilled to team up with Air Methods to create a life-saving drone delivery network throughout the United States,” Wingcopter CEO Tom Plümmer said.
“Our technology has been used globally to effectively deliver medical supplies, for example insulin in Ireland, children’s vaccines in Vanuatu, emergency medication in Malawi, and just recently, blood samples in Germany. Our vision to ‘save and improve lives’ resonates perfectly with Air Methods’ legacy of providing lifesaving care, combined with Spright’s ambition to improve the quality of healthcare across the U.S. by deploying fleets of Wingcopters, and we are excited about scaling this together.”
Building on past success
Last year, Wingcopter was named one of nine winners of Germany’s top global hackathon to kick-start humanitarian drone delivery, partnering with UNICEF and the African Drone and Data Academy to develop a concept to deploy humanitarian drone delivery services and to improve health supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
In February 2020, Wingcopter won first place in the Emergency Delivery category at the World Bank-sponsored Lake Kivu Challenge in Rwanda.
In March 2020, the company announced a collaboration with UPS Flight Forward to develop a next-generation delivery drone solution for packages. The duo will next seek regulatory certification for a Wingcopter unmanned aircraft to make commercial delivery flights in the United States.
In addition to the UPSFF partnership, Wingcopter is also working on a drone-delivery program with pharma giant Merck. The pilot program will transport pigment samples from a Merck site in Gernsheim, Germany to a lab in Darmstadt – a distance of 15.5 miles. In 2019, Wingcopter worked with Researchers at NUI Galway, Ireland to complete the world’s first BVLOS delivery of prescription medication and blood samples for diabetes care.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
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