Independent drone delivery service Flirtey and Dr. Timothy Amukele, assistant professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will conduct the first ship-to-shore drone delivery in the U.S. on June 23 on the New Jersey coastline.
The purpose of the joint mission is to demonstrate how unmanned aircraft can provide life-saving aid to victims of a disaster, such as a hurricane or system-wide failure of electrical or communications infrastructure.
Amukele has previously led successful research on the viability of using medical drones to transport blood samples and blood products, and is serving as a volunteer advisor to the project.
Flirtey and Amukele will conduct the flights at the invitation of disaster preparedness non-profit Field Innovation Team (FIT), which is also hosting guests from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA), as part of the Drones in Disasters Do Tank. FIT’s Do Tanks enable experts from a variety of fields to come together and collaborate to develop solutions to humanitarian disaster scenarios. Goals of the event include educating the private sector on humanitarian response and aeronautical research into the integration of drones into the national air space.
Flirtey will fly drones carrying medical samples for emergency testing between an onshore medical relief camp at Cape May and a test facility on a vessel stationed off the coast. In a round trip, Flirtey drones will also deliver medical supplies from the vessel to the onshore medical camp. Flirtey’s ability to rapidly deliver vital medical supplies along a coastline when road systems may be damaged is a large leap forward in humanitarian logistics and response.
“Imagine a future where in the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, Flirtey drones rapidly deliver emergency medical supplies, food and water,” said Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny. “This demonstration is helping to make that future a reality, and taking us one step closer to Flirtey’s mission to save lives and change lifestyles.”
“This is an unprecedented opportunity to provide urgent aid and advanced diagnosis tools into a disaster zone with interoperability with key government relief assets,” said Flirtey co-founder Tom Bass.
The purpose of this Do Tank, and FIT’s mission statement, is to empower people to create cutting-edge disaster solutions. “It’s pivotal that in disaster and crisis we look to support our relief efforts with cutting-edge technology,” said founder Desiree Matel-Anderson.
The demonstration has large implications for global humanitarian efforts. Eight of the 10 largest cities in the world are coastal cities, and more than three billion people, or 44 percent of the world’s population, live within 95 miles of the coast, according to the United Nations.
“We recognize the opportunity for us to engage with drone developers and operators in ensuring the principled application of game-changing technologies in response to humanitarian crises around the world,” said UNOCHA Humanitarian Affairs Officer Andrew Billo. “Participating in this event supports the mission of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to mobilize and coordinate effective humanitarian action with a broad range of partners.”
Ship-to-shore aid and medical deliveries by drone require a technical precision that Flirtey has been rapidly developing and refining. Flirtey was the first company to conduct an FAA-approved delivery in the United States, and the first company to perform a fully autonomous drone delivery to a home in the U.S.