Commercial drone deliveries begin in North Carolina

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

SAN FRANCISCO – Volansi, Inc. has begun a commercial healthcare drone delivery project in North Carolina.

In collaboration with Merck, Volansi is piloting the delivery of medicines from Merck’s Wilson, N.C. manufacturing site to Vidant Healthplex-Wilson, a health clinic.

The project is the first of three phases in a project to learn about drone technology’s role and ability to improve access to healthcare.

With 1.4 million people across 29 counties, eastern North Carolina’s vast, rural environment can create challenges for accessing care. Initial flights in the project resulted in the first drone delivery of temperature-controlled medicines within the U.S.

“We’ve seen the world’s supply chain strained like never before from the impact of Coronavirus,” said Hannan Parvizian, CEO and co-founder of Volansi.

“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.”

Up to 4.5-kilogram payload

The project uses Volansi’s VOLY C10, an all-electric drone capable of carrying 4.5 kg of cargo to locations up to 80 km away.

The VOLY C10’s vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) system allows it to deliver fragile cargo with a “soft touch” automated release once the drone has landed. The VTOL system requires little infrastructure and can also deliver items such as order confirmations or temperature trackers on the return flight.

“Merck is very supportive of collaborations using new technologies to explore how one day we could help better serve the healthcare community. This pilot helps us explore new innovative delivery options that would complement our existing supply chain capabilities,” said Craig Kennedy, senior vice-president, global supply chain management, Merck.

“At Vidant Health, innovation and collaboration help us increase access to care and meet our mission to improve health and well-being across eastern North Carolina,” said Brian Floyd, chief operating officer, Vidant.

“This project with Merck and Volansi is the beginning of an exciting endeavor to explore additional ways we can meet the unique needs of those we serve.”

Volansi is collaborating with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program and the North Carolina Department of Transportation to ensure deliveries are made in accordance with state and federal guidelines.

Volansi says it will will seek approval from the FAA to provide deliveries in additional locations for phases two and three of the project.