UPS is delivering COVID-19 vaccines by drone at the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist medical campus in Winston-Salem, N.C. UPS/TNS

Shipping giant UPS said it has started making its first COVID-19 vaccine deliveries by drone.

UPS Flight Forward is making deliveries on the campus of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The drones open up the prospect of a quicker way to deliver sensitive medical shipments, such as to remote or rural areas.

The hospital ships the vaccines by drone from its central pharmacy to family medicine practices on its medical center campus. Drone operators inspect the Matternet M2 drone before takeoff and scan the airspace for air traffic.

The drones carry temperature-monitoring devices that operate with alkaline and lithium batteries that required Federal Aviation Administration safety approvals.

The special temperature-controlled packaging for drones was developed by Cold Chain Technologies, which UPS Healthcare vice president of global marketing Dan Gagnon said in a written statement has implications that “extend far beyond COVID-19.” He said the technology could also be used for clinical trial shipments, pharmaceuticals and other biologics that have to be kept at cold temperatures.

The COVID-19 vaccine drone deliveries are an expansion of a partnership UPS and Wake Forest Baptist launched in July 2020 to transport urgent items, including medicines that have a short shelf life.

UPS previously delivered COVID-19 vaccines by drone in Ghana in Africa as part of a partnership with vaccine alliance Gavi.

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Tribune Wire

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