Drone relay delivers medical supplies to rural clinic

Patients at a rural outdoor health clinic got treatment and a place in history thanks to a program that used drones to deliver medical supplies.

Patients at a rural outdoor health clinic got treatment and a place in history thanks to a program that used drones to deliver pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies as part of the Let’s Fly Wisely event.

A full-sized aircraft operated by NASA’s Langley Research Center flew medical supplies from Tazewell County in southwest Virginia to the Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise County, Va. From there, staff from the drone company Flirtey separated the supplies into 24 small packages and delivered them to the local free clinic through repeated flights over the span of two hours.

"This first unmanned aerial delivery gave us the chance to do some critical research and mission exploration with our Cirrus SR22," said Frank Jones, deputy director of NASA Langley's Research Services Directorate that oversees all Langley aircraft. "We flew the aircraft remotely beyond visual line of sight for the first time from a portable ground station. We had remotely piloted it a number of times at NASA Langley using our permanent ground station, but this allowed us to demonstrate a new capability that we can use to test unmanned mission concepts and aircraft technologies in a remote location."

The Let’s Fly Wisely event is one of many efforts to advance the integration unmanned aerial vehicles in the National Airspace System.

The flights were overseen by the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech, which had received a Federal Aviation Administration Certificate of Authorization for the event.

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