Covid-19 vaccines are being delivered to medical practices by drones in the US for the first time.

The drone flights are being operated by UPS Flight Forward utilising a Matternet M2 drone on behalf of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.

The drones, which flies autonomously and produces zero operational emissions, are delivering vaccines from Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem to one of the health system’s family medicine practices located at Piedmont Plaza, around a 1 mile drive by car.

The Matternet M2 drone is outfitted with a special cargo box that contains Cold Chain Technologies’ customized PCM Gel solution, a temperature-sensitive packaging mixture that maintains the Covid-19 vaccine at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, and a temperature monitoring device that monitors the vaccine’s temperature while in transit.

“Distributing and protecting the integrity of the COVID-19 vaccine is our top priority and we’ve successfully completed multiple test flights to ensure that the vaccine remains at the appropriate temperature throughout transit,” said Jennifer Tryon, chief pharmacy officer at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. “The ability to use a temperature monitoring device for our COVID-19 vaccine drone delivery program also opens the door for us to transport additional items which require maintenance of the cold chain.”

Over the past year, the health care provider has already expanded its drone services program to include lab samples, in addition to the specialty infusion and individually compounded medications that have been delivered to patients since the program’s inception.

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