By Hannan Parvizian, CEO and Co-Founder of Volansi

Merck and Volansi have had many collaborations across the years. Together, we helped deliver temperature-sensitive medicines in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico after the devastation of hurricanes Maria and Florence. Although only a first step, these demonstrations foreshadowed how we intend to redefine the biopharmaceutical supply chain of the future.

Today, I’m happy to announce that this future starts now.

Building on our prior work, Volansi and Merck have launched a commercial healthcare drone delivery project in North Carolina. Through this collaboration, we aim to better understand how drones can be used to improve access to healthcare – a critical issue here in eastern North Carolina. The largely rural area is home to 1.4 million people, with many living miles from the nearest pharmacy or clinic. For those suffering from diseases or chronic conditions, having a supply chain that works for them isn’t just about convenience – it’s a matter of life or death.

I believe that drone delivery is a key solution for getting critical supplies whenever and wherever they are needed.

And to prove it, we completed the first successful drone delivery of temperature-controlled medicines within the U.S. During the demonstration, Volansi piloted a VOLY C10 loaded with cold chain medicines from Merck’s Wilson, N.C. manufacturing site to Vidant Healthplex-Wilson, a Vidant Health clinic.

One of the many advantages of using drones for this type of critical cargo delivery is that it requires minimal infrastructure to operate. Our autonomous drones also deliver fragile cargo with a ‘soft touch’, automatically releasing the load once they touchdown at the delivery location. Furthermore, drones can streamline such logistical tasks as order confirmation by delivering temperature trackers and shipping confirmations on the return flight.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for rapid advancements in healthcare supply chain technology abundantly clear. Our pilot program in North Carolina will help answer this need by exploring innovative new delivery options that can make medical supply chains more flexible and responsive.

We are at the cusp of an exciting new endeavor. As we seek FAA approval to expand the project’s scope to additional delivery locations, our vision for a world where everybody has ready access to life-saving medical supplies is becoming clearer by the day.