A consortium led by humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief today announced the successful completion of a program testing the potential to deliver temperature-controlled medicines and vaccines by using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, also known as drones). It is the fourth in a series of proof-of-concept missions the group as undertaken to demonstrate the potential of using UAVs to safely deliver temperature-dependent medicines and vaccines to hard-to-reach locations. Direct Relief, Merck (known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada), Softbox, AT&T and Volans-i are working together on the project.
The successful pilot and the potential of UAV technology could represent an important step forward in biopharmaceutical supply chain innovation and for humanitarian efforts around the world. The pilot was conducted in the Bahamas. The group previously conducted test flights in Switzerland and Puerto Rico.
“Experience and research consistently show that those most at risk of health crisis in disasters live in communities which are likely to be cut off from essential health care due to disruption of transportation and communications,” said Andrew Schroeder, who, among other responsibilities, leads analytics programs, data visualization, and geospatial analytics for Direct Relief. “Drone delivery is one of the most promising answers to this problem. More remains to be done to operationalize medical cargo drones in emergencies. But successful tests like this one demonstrate that remarkable new humanitarian capabilities are emerging quickly.”
While the technology is promising, the potential viability of the technology for real-world application will depend on several factors, including tackling diverse and evolving regulatory challenges around the world.
About Direct Relief
A humanitarian organization committed to improving the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies, Direct Relief delivers lifesaving medical resources throughout the world to communities in need—without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.
For more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases that threaten people and communities around the world – including cancer, cardio-metabolic diseases, emerging animal diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and infectious diseases including HIV and Ebola.
Softbox is an award-winning, temperature-control packaging innovator that has been designing and producing high-performance passive temperature control packaging solutions for over 20 years. We offer consistent quality to our clients from our strategically located global manufacturing sites throughout Europe, Americas, India and Asia Pacific. We have formed long standing partnerships with the world’s leading pharmaceutical, clinical research, biotech and logistics companies, and apply innovative thinking to overcome the challenges that our clients face in managing the Cold Chain when shipping temperature sensitive clinical trial and commercialized products. In 2014, Great Point Partners, a leading health care investment firm, recapitalized Softbox to provide growth financing for the Company to continue to execute on its expansion, innovation and global investment strategy to support its clients around the globe.
Volans-i provides fast on-demand aerial delivery service for time-critical shipments over long ranges. We build and operate long-range, high-payload drones for commercial, defense, and humanitarian applications. Leveraging drone technology as a transportation method, we help our customers gain control of their supply chain and save millions of dollars on downtime and inventory costs.