How to distribute lifesaving supplies quickly and safely after a natural disaster has long been a puzzle for responders. Now, drones might be the lifesaver.
That idea was put to the test this week in New Jersey as Flirtey, a drone delivery service, conducted test flights to help determine whether drones can be used to carry human medical samples to and from areas during major natural disasters.
It was the first ship-to-shore drone delivery in the United States. The testing team included medical personnel, emergency management specialists, and drone technology experts, including professionals from New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Innovation Institute.
About 100 people looked on as the drones flew between an onshore medical relief camp and a test facility on a vessel stationed on the Delaware Bay Wednesday afternoon.
“The use of this disruptive technology in supporting humanitarian and emergency operations is a major paradigm shift and significantly enhances the ability to support field medical operators and first responders in remote or otherwise inaccessible disaster sites,” said William Marshall, assistant vice president for government and military relations for NJIT. “The data captured here will be shared with all of the participants, including the FAA, in support of the agency’s ongoing research into the integration of UAS into the national air space.”
The tests were done at the invitation of the Field Innovation Team, a nonprofit that works with agencies and experts from various fields to develop solutions to humanitarian disaster scenarios. The Red Cross and several United Nations agencies also participated in the event.
“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 Andrew Billo, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Participating in this event supports the mission of the OCHA to mobilize and coordinate effective humanitarian action with a broad range of partners.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.