Tech

Matternet launches medical drone delivery network in Berlin

Drone logistics startup Matternet today announced the launch of a delivery pilot at Labor Berlin Charité Vivantes, a health system in Berlin, Germany. The program kicked off on November 17, with permanent operations expected to begin next year. It creates what Matternet claims is the first urban beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) medical drone delivery network in the EU.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to shelter-in-place orders and a need for additional precautions across the board. Drones and autonomous vehicles can limit unnecessary contact between workers, couriers, customers, patients, and health care workers, potentially reducing the spread of infection. Among recent examples, Zipline’s drones have flown COVID-19 tests from parts of Ghana to the nation’s capital. Alphabet’s Wing drone business continues to make commercial deliveries to customers. And DJI conducted outreach to homeless populations in Tulsa, Oklahoma and helped reinforce social distancing guidelines in Daytona Beach, Florida.

During the initial phase of the Labor Berlin collaboration, Matternet will work with the organization to determine ways to integrate drones with Labor Berlin’s existing workflow. The partners intend to invite government and public sector representatives to observe drone flights and engage other airspace users, such as helicopter emergency rescue services, Berlin police, and the city’s municipal airports. Matternet says it will also work with the air navigation service provider in Germany and UAS traffic management (UTM) providers to fly the drones safely in Berlin’s airspace.

Labor Berlin is Europe’s largest hospital laboratory, with facilities in 13 hospitals across the city responsible for a combined 80% of patient diagnostics in Berlin. Over 15,000 samples are transported daily across Labor Berlin’s extensive network, according to Matternet.

The company claims its delivery network, which will first connect Labor Berlin’s central lab on Charité Campus Virchow-Klinikum, the Charité Hospital Campus Benjamin Franklin, and the Corona Clinic by Vivantes (Corona-Behandlungszentrum Jafféstraße), has the potential to serve millions of patients each year.

Matternet’s drone system has been operating around the world since 2017 through partnerships with Swiss Post, UPS, and most recently Japan Airlinen. In Switzerland, the platform is deployed at Lugano’s EOC hospital and the University Hospital Zurich. In the U.S., flights are taking place at Wake Forest Baptist Health and WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. Matternet’s technology is also enabling UPS to provide drone delivery service of prescription medicines for The Villages, Florida, one of the country’s largest retirement communities.

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