Merck starts delivering medicine using Volansi drones

Merck, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has signed an agreement with Volansi, VTOL manufacturer, to start using drones to deliver routine medicines to a Vidant health clinic. Cold chain medicine will be delivered from the Merck manufacturing plant in Wilson, North Carolina, to a Vidant Healthplex clinic in the same city. It is the first of three phases of a project to learn how drone technology can be used to improve access to healthcare.

We’ve seen the world’s supply chain strained like never before from the impact of Coronavirus. There’s now an accelerated need for rapid advancements in supply chain technology, especially in healthcare. Drone delivery is one solution to getting critical supplies where they are needed, at the moment they are needed most.
– Hannan Parvizian, CEO and Co-Founder of Volansi

Volansi had previously already signed an agreement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation for middle-mile drone delivery projects. They chose the state because it is fairly rural, creating challenges for access to healthcare. As part of the project, the company has already achieved the first temperature-controlled medicine delivery in the US.

Photo Credit: Volansi

Volansi will use its C10 drones, with a wing span of nearly 10 feet capable of carrying a payload of 10lbs over 50 miles. The aircraft takes off vertically using four electric motors and has one rear propeller for forward propulsion. The VTOL capabilities allow it to land soft enough to deliver fragile cargo and autorelease it upon touchdown. Volansi is collaborating with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program and the North Carolina Department of Transportation to ensure all operations and deliveries happen in a safe fashion in accordance with state and federal law and guidelines. They are working with the FAA to get approval for additional locations for the following phases of the project.

As a healthcare leader, Merck is very supportive of collaborations using new technologies to explore how one day we could help better serve the healthcare community. Our existing distribution system is strong, and this pilot helps us explore new innovative delivery options that would complement our existing supply chain capabilities.
– Craig Kennedy, Senior Vice President, Global Supply Chain Management, Merck

At Vidant Health, innovation and collaboration help us increase access to care and meet our mission to improve health and well-being across eastern North Carolina. This project with Merck and Volansi is the beginning of an exciting endeavor to explore additional ways we can meet the unique needs of those we serve.
– Brian Floyd, Chief Operating Officer, Vidant

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