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UPS and Matternet are using drones to deliver medical samples

UPS and Matternet are operating the first FAA-sanctioned commercial drone service to deliver medical samples in North Carolina. The Matternet M2 drone makes up to 10 routine delivery flights per day at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in the Raleigh, N.C. The project, that is part of the UAS Integration Pilot Program will be overseen by both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Medical samples delivered by drone

Every day millions of medical samples are being transported in busy urban environments. It is not hard to imagine how much faster (and with less environmental impact) these small and lightweight packages could be delivered with drones.

As part of the UAS Integration Pilot Program, UPS and Matternet are now participating in the first FAA-sanctioned commercial drone service in North Carolina. The drone delivery service runs at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in the Raleigh, N.C.

The deliveries are made with the Matternet M2 quadcopter which can fly for 12.5 miles while carrying a payload of up to 5 pounds on a single battery charge. A typical delivery flight by drone takes about 3 minutes versus the 30 minutes it would take a delivery man.

The drone flight is fully autonomous, but a remote pilot always monitors the flight and can intervene if needed. The M2 quadcopters operate from specially designed landing platforms at both locations. Currently, the drone service completes about 10 flights per day but this number is expected to increase if the service takes off. The medical samples are secured in a locked compartment underneath the drone.

You may recognize the name Matternet as we reported on the company earlier. They have been extensively testing with deliveries by drone in Zurich, Switzerland and have compl

eted over 3,000 flights. UPS has partnered with Zipline in the past to deliver blood samples to remote locations in Rwanda.


The FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (UASS IPP) will run for three years and is designed to test the use of drones for commercial purposes by partnering local governments and private companies to learn how to safely integrate drones into our airspace and day-to-day lives. The five UAS IPP partners involved in North Carolina are the FAA, NCDOT, UPS, Matternet, and WakeMed.

Enhancing the UPS Global Smart Logistics Network to support hospitals and other healthcare organizations remains a key element of the company’s transformation strategy. Healthcare and life science logistics is a priority segment for UPS, and the company is building new relationships and technologies to deliver better patient care with streamlined logistics and supply chain.

This collaboration is the latest UPS program to utilize drone flights in support of healthcare logistics. UPS partnered with GAVI and Zipline in 2016 to deliver blood products to remote locations in Rwanda. The Matternet team has already completed more than 3,000 flights for healthcare systems in Switzerland.


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Avatar for Haye Kesteloo Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at DroneDJ, where he covers all drone related news and writes product reviews. He also contributes to the other sites in the 9to5Mac group such as; 9to5Mac, 9to5Google, 9to5Toys and Electrek. Haye can be reached at or @hayekesteloo