Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) recently partnered with UPS's (NYSE:UPS) drone delivery subsidiary UPS Flight Forward (UPSFF) and drone technology companies DroneUp and Workhorse Group (NASDAQ: WKHS) in tests designed to determine how unmanned aerial systems can assist medical professionals in their fight to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.
As healthcare practitioners nationwide and around the world race to contain the virus and save lives, time is of the essence. Experts in the healthcare industry and in government are calling for technology solutions that can speed the pace of testing and treatment for infected patients. They also express concern for healthcare providers on the front lines who interact with potentially infected patients on a daily basis. Technology leaders see autonomous drones as a potentially valuable solution.
"I am encouraged to see so many private sector partners stepping up and thinking innovatively as we work together to combat COVID-19," said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. "Drones can be an important way to deliver medical supplies while people stay home to adhere to our social distancing guidelines. Virginia is well-positioned to be a leader in the unmanned system industry, and we are pleased to be part of this initiative."
The tests in Virginia evaluated the commercial drone industry's ability to provide and scale small unmanned aerial systems to support various use cases to speed and assist the U.S. healthcare system during the novel Coronavirus crisis.
"We've proven through ongoing commercial drone delivery programs that effective drone delivery of medical products is faster than conventional ground-based transportation," said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer. "Drones offer a low-touch option for delivery of lab specimens and medical products that could make a significant impact in an urgent response application."
Data collected during this fast-paced simulation will be used to determine how private-sector drone operators can effectively supplement emergency response and certain patient care. The findings and recommendations will be included in a report to the White House, where leaders are considering what role the nascent industry could play in the Coronavirus response.
"Many in the public - along with federal, state and local officials - are asking how drones can be used in this time of crisis," said Tom Walker, DroneUp CEO. "Rather than speculate, it is incumbent upon our industry to conduct operationally-based exercises that produce factual data and lessons learned to ensure we can respond safely, effectively and efficiently when called upon. Data collected now will impact our capabilities beyond the COVID-19 outbreak we are currently facing."
The test participants conducted exercises over three days earlier this month on the vacant campus of St. Paul's College, in Lawrenceville, Virginia. The Brunswick County facility, which closed to the public in 2013, provided a safe, complex community environment to test package deliveries by drones under a variety of conditions. The exercises focused on delivery to residential and commercial areas with the aim of determining the following:
-- Safe operational capacities based on existing technologies, policies, personnel and environmental restrictions
-- Airspace de-confliction and operator safety policies necessary for peak optimal capacity
-- Processes, policies and training necessary to conduct efficient, safe and effective delivery operations during day and night
-- Proposed policy changes that would further enable the use of these autonomous airborne advanced technologies
Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), a nonprofit corporation, has been Virginia's primary driver of innovation and entrepreneurship since 1985. Virginia's commitment to unmanned system innovation led to the development of The Virginia Unmanned Systems center at CIT to support this rapidly growing and innovative industry.
"Our thoughts are with those who have been most affected by this crisis, said Ed Albrigo, CIT president and CEO. "CIT is committed to exploring innovative responses to the COVID -19 pandemic including emergency package delivery by drones. We appreciate the willingness of DroneUp, UPS and Workhorse to be part of the solution."
"We're proud to be able to help through the use of our drone technology and aerospace team in this crisis," said Duane Hughes, Workhorse Group CEO. "We've made hundreds of autonomous drone deliveries in the National Airspace System over the last four years using our proprietary technology combined with our all electric delivery vehicles. We have a comprehensive understanding of the benefits provided by a drone delivery when speed counts. The people of Workhorse are ready to help through these trying times in any way we can."
Last year, UPS initiated the first ongoing revenue-generating drone delivery service at WakeMed's flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, N.C. UPS also established UPS Flight Forward, which later earned the Federal Aviation Administration's standard Part 135 Standard certification to operate a drone airline. UPS has worked with innovative drone technology partners and aviation regulators for years to advance the use of drones for delivery.
DroneUp provides end-to-end aerial data collection services for its clients. The company also qualifies and deploys drone pilots to serve a variety of commercial industries. Workhorse makes electrically powered utility and delivery vehicles, including drones. In 2017, UPS and Workhorse successfully tested delivery drones launched from the top of a UPS package delivery van.
UPS (NYSE: UPS) is a global leader in logistics, offering a broad range of solutions including transporting packages and freight; facilitating international trade, and deploying advanced technology to more efficiently manage the world of business. Headquartered in Atlanta, UPS serves more than 220 countries and territories worldwide. UPS was awarded America's Best Customer Service company for Shipping and Delivery services by Newsweek magazine; Forbes Most Valuable Brand in Transportation; and top rankings on the JUST 100 list for social responsibility, the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, and the Harris Poll Reputation Quotient, among other prestigious rankings and awards. The company can be found on the web at ups.com or pressroom.ups.com and its corporate blog can be found at ups.com/longitudes The company's sustainability eNewsletter, UPS Horizons, can be found at ups.com/sustainabilitynewsletter. To get UPS news direct, follow @UPS_News on Twitter. To ship with UPS, visit ups.com/ship.
About the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT)
Investing in Virginia's Growth | CIT concentrates on the early commercialization and seed funding stages of innovation, helping innovators and tech entrepreneurs launch and grow new companies, create high paying jobs and accelerate economic growth throughout the entire state of Virginia. Founded in 1985, CIT accelerates next generation technologies and technology companies through commercialization, capital formation, market development initiatives, and expansion of broadband throughout Virginia. Our programs include | CIT GAP Funds | Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund (CRCF) | Virginia Founders Fund | Broadband/Rural Broadband | Smart Communities | Cybersecurity | Unmanned Systems | SBIR/STTR Support (Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) & Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs) | University Partnerships | Startup Company Mentoring & Engagement. CIT's CAGE Code is 1UP71. Contact: 2214 Rock Hill Road #600, Herndon, VA 20170 | 703.689.3000 | www.cit.org | You can also follow CIT on Twitter,LinkedIn and Facebook.
About The Virginia Unmanned Systems Center at CIT
Launched in 2017, â??the Virginia Unmanned Systems Center at CIT is the nexus for Virginia's activity in UxS - Land, Air, Sea, and Space. CIT is the primary source for information, grants, partnerships, and seed funding for UxS in the Commonwealth. For more information about the Virginia Unmanned Systems Center at CIT, please visit https://www.vus.virginia.gov/. You can also follow on Twitter
DroneUp provides end-to-end aerial data collection services to commercial industries and public sector organizations, leveraging our patent-pending platform, Mission Match(TM)ï¸. Through the Mission Match(TM)ï¸ platform, we can locate, qualify, and deploy a single-pilot or multi-pilot crew according to our clients' requirements. The DroneUp staff consists of successful business leaders, with expertise in aviation, IT, law, public safety, digital transformation, public sector, and drone flight operations. DroneUp is dedicated to providing a comprehensive network of pilots while maintaining a steadfast commitment to our efficient client services and safety. DroneUp is located in 50 states with over 8000 certified drone pilots. DroneUp is SWaM (Small, Woman-owned, and Minority-owned Business) certified as a small business by the Commonwealth of Virginia. For more information: droneup.com
Tracy Tynan, Director Center for Innovative Technology | The Virginia Unmanned Systems Center at CIT tracy.tynan@CIT.org