The FAA recently approved the use of a NASA drone to deliver medical supplies to under-served patients in Wise County, VA in partnership with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech located in Blacksburg.
Tests for the program, were conducted during the area’s “Let’s Fly Wisely” event mid July in which a NASA Langley fixed-wing Cirrus SR22 aircraft, and drone flown remotely from the ground by Flirtey Inc (a start-up drone company) picked up 10 pounds of pharmaceuticals and supplies from an airport in Tazewell County in southwest Virginia, and delivered the medicine to the Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise County. The meds were then delivered to an annual clinic held at the local Fairgrounds, run by Remote Area Medical and the Health Wagon, a health care outreach organization. The group typically serves more than 1,500 patients.
SEESPAN Inc., an aerial interactive media startup company, also participated in research flights at the event to advance uses of unmanned aircraft in capturing video. Other partners included the Appalachian College of Pharmacy, Rx Partnership, and Wise County Economic Development.
“This first unmanned aerial delivery gave us the chance to do some critical research and mission exploration with our Cirrus SR22,” stated Frank Jones, deputy director of NASA Langley’s Research Services Directorate which oversees all Langley aircraft. “We flew the aircraft remotely beyond visual line of sight for the first time from a portable ground station. This allowed us to demonstrate a new capability that we can use to test unmanned mission concepts and aircraft technologies in a remote location.”
Special guests on hand to witness the successful delivery included Virginia’s Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel, Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones, and Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands. Associate Director Cathy Mangum and Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate Director Vicki Crisp also attended from Langley.
While McAuliffe stated that the state has already invested more than $2 million in support of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands lauded it as having great potential for not only helping people in need of assistance, but also for its helping the region’s economy in a new and inventive way.
The Let’s Fly Wisely delivery is just one of a number of research projects being conducted by Langley to advance the safe integration of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in the national airspace system.