DroneUp to deliver meds to Eastern Shore
Riverside Health System part of new partnership
Virginia Beach-based unmanned flight company DroneUp will launch a project to deliver medications via drone to patients on the Eastern Shore and Tangier Island as part of a collaboration with Riverside Health System and the Virginia Institute for Spaceflight & Autonomy (VISA) at Old Dominion University, among other partners.
The project received $1.877 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s SMART Grants Program as one of 59 winning proposals out of a pool of 389 applications. The medical cargo drone delivery project, which was Virginia’s only SMART Grant-winning entry, will first test and plan delivery of prescription medicines to patients living in rural parts of the Eastern Shore and Tangier Island, according to the Monday announcement. After stage one is complete, the project will move into full implementation. Drones will leave Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital carrying medications to patients’ doorsteps, and both the hospital and patients will be able to track the drones’ progress in real time.
Riverside will begin the program with a focus on delivering hypertension medicines, as the condition is more common in the Eastern Shore than in other parts of the state.
In addition to Riverside, DroneUp and VISA, other partners in the medication delivery project include the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission and Virginia Innovative Partnership Corp., which includes the Unmanned Systems Center.
“We are excited to see the first medical cargo drone take flight from RSMH in May,” says Nick Chuquin, president of Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital, based in Onancock. “The Eastern Shore is a unique geographical area with a rural makeup that can pose accessibility challenges for patients in need of prescription medication. We know that drone service delivery to our patients living in rural areas of our community will not only improve access to medications but also improve patient outcomes and overall health.”
According to the announcement, the partnership is working closely with USDOT to finalize documentation and begin project work on June 1.
DroneUp, founded in 2016, announced in August 2022 that it planned to add 655 jobs as part of an expansion that includes establishing a $20 million drone testing, training and research and development center at Richard Bland College in Dinwiddie County. In May 2022, DroneUp and Walmart announced plans to expand drone delivery services to 4 million homes in six states. Walmart has a minority stake in DroneUp.