WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist will be delivering COVID-19 vaccines with drones in the first COVID-19 vaccine drone delivery program in the country, according to a AHWFB news release.
The new initiative – operated by UPS and its subsidiary, UPS Flight Forward– expands Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s existing drone program that was launched in July 2020.
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 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.
The autonomous flight is overseen by UPS Flight Forward’s specially trained operators who are stationed onsite to inspect the Matternet M2 aircraft prior to takeoff and scan the airspace for conflicting air traffic
“The ability and ingenuity to add an innovative layer to our health care supply chain by transporting COVID-19 vaccines via drone provides us with additional rapid delivery options for these time and temperature-sensitive vaccines,” said Conrad Emmerich, senior vice president of supply chain at Atrium Health. “The iQ Healthtech Lab team is committed to partnering with industry leaders, like UPS, to better advance healthtech solutions into the marketplace.”
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.