UPS says drone delivery holds promise for hospitals, large campuses

After launching the use of a drone to deliver medical samples across a hospital campus in Raleigh, N.C., UPS said the technology holds promise for hospitals and other large campuses around the world.

Sandy Springs-based UPS has tested the use of drones on a small scale for a few years, but last month began the first revenue-producing drone flights sanctioned by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The shipping giant says it is partnering with aerial delivery developer Matternet to make multiple drone deliveries a day at the WakeMed hospital campus in Raleigh, instead of relying on courier cars.

“This solution opens the door for how drones can be used to improve transport services in hospitals and other large campuses around the world,” UPS CEO David Abney said this week during an investor call discussing the company’s first quarter financial results.

UPS chief information and engineering officer Juan Perez noted that the company continues to study uses of the technology.

"We've learned a lot through our tests with drone technology, one-off drone solutions are not scalable," Perez said. "To complement our already robust delivery network with drone deliveries requires an effective ecosystem of solutions."

Since UPS launched its contractual deliveries in Raleigh, the FAA has approved more commercial drone delivery by others. Earlier this week, the FAA awarded its first air carrier certification to a drone delivery company.

The drone delivery company that got the air carrier certification, Wing Aviation, is a sister company to Google under parent firm Alphabet.

The FAA said the certification paves the way for Wing to make deliveries in Blacksburg, Va., and that Wing “plans to reach out to the local community before it begins food delivery, to gather feedback to inform its future operations.”

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