Direct Relief Releases Drone Delivery Report

PQMD Members Direct Relief and Merck partnered with public and private organizations to test drone delivery of medications


Volans-i VOLY C-10 vertical takeoff & landing aircraft (Merck courtesy photo)

Merck &Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA,  (known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada) partnered with Direct Relief, Softbox (temperature-controlled packing system experts), AT&T (IoT technology provider) and Volans-I (drone company and flight controller) to implement a series of proof-of-concept missions testing the potential to deliver temperature-controlled medicines and vaccines using unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, to hard-to-reach locations. The group conducted test flights in Puerto Rico in 2018 and a final pilot in the Bahamas in the summer of 2019. The test pilots and the potential of UAV technology could represent an important step forward in biopharmaceutical supply chain innovation and for humanitarian efforts around the world.

While the technology is promising, the potential viability of the technology for real-world application will depend on several factors, including tackling diverse and evolving regulatory challenges around the world.

Details on the proof-of concept flights, lessons learned and future recommendations were recently published in Direct Relief’s final report. The group of organizations and companies hopes this report will serve as a resource and discussion primer for the future potential of using drones in medical supply chains to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.