NASA assisted in the unmanned aerial delivery of pharmaceuticals to a remote free clinic in Virginia. File Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, July 18 (UPI) -- An outdoor free clinic in Virginia was the first to receive an unmanned aerial delivery of pharmaceuticals Friday.
NASA partnered with Flirtey Inc., -- a drone startup company -- to successfully deliver medicines and other medical supplies to an annual free clinic in Wise County, Va., which serves at least 1,500 people.
During the experimental exercise, a full-sized aircraft from NASA's Langley Research Center escorted a remotely operated hexacopter from Flirtey to the fairgrounds where the clinic is located. Authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the operation became the first drone-delivery to transport such supplies.
The flight was part of an event called Let's Fly Wisely.
"This first unmanned aerial delivery gave us the chance to do some critical research and mission exploration with our Cirrus SR22," deputy director of NASA's Langley Research Services, Frank Jones, said of the fixed-wing Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) that carried 10 pounds of provisions during the demonstration.
"We flew the aircraft remotely beyond [a] visual line of sight for the first time from a portable ground station," Jones said. "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 entire operation took about two hours as Flirtey separated the medical supplies into 24 small packages which can be easily transported by the drone. The pharmaceuticals were lowered to the ground via tether and health care professionals at the scene received them.
"These flights highlight the humanitarian possibilities of this technology,
Virginia Sen. (D-VA) Mark R. Warner said Friday.