The program will be Matternet’s third, with an earlier UPS partnership having made 1,900 flights at WakeMed, a hospital in North Carolina. This month, flights with SwissPost in Zurich will resume, following crashes that put them to rest temporarily last summer. The new program will be inaugurated at UC San Diego (UCSD) Jacobs Medical Center, where medical items will be flown between various medical facilities.
Biological services and medical items that need to travel with urgency usually do so by courier. However, in periods of heavy traffic, a drone could make more sense, Matternet officials have said.
The flights will be autonomous, but with remote monitoring and a line of sight from Jacobs to the Moores Cancer Center and Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine. Both locations are under a mile away from Jacobs.
In addition to the flight systems, Matternet pulled in a strategic funding round from healthcare-focused McKesson Ventures.
Drones are being tested elsewhere in the healthcare-adjacent sphere, including another UPS project, in which they’re being used to fly CVS prescription medications to customers’ homes in the North Carolina area. In those tests, the drones are supervised by a remote pilot who can intervene if necessary. The packages, once they reach their destinations, are gradually lowered to the ground using cables.
In addition, Walgreens, Uber Eats and Amazon have tested drone technology. Retailers have experimented with the technology to deliver various products and food to customers. Users who couldn’t leave their homes due to childcare or illness would select various items that they needed, from medicine to snacks, which would be delivered via drone.
Google has also launched a new drone delivery unit titled Wings.