San Diego is one of the first regions to deliver medical specimens via drones

Blood samples delivered by drone? Medical specimens via drones may soon become a reality thanks to a new partnership between UPS Flight Forward and Matternet, in conjunction with UC San Diego Health.

Drone on black stand at UC San DIego in front of large building

Medical specimens take flight

Last week, the first medical specimens were delivered by drone as part of a larger effort to integrate drones into San Diego’s airspace as part of the Integration Pilot Program. UC San Diego Health will be utilizing UAS as a means to deliver medical specimens and supplies to expedite health care services. It has become common practice for labs to operate separately from a hospital. This new partnership may mean faster diagnosis, treatment, or even peace of mind.

“Right now, most biological samples must travel between sites by courier car, within designated hours,” said James Killeen, MD, clinical professor of emergency medicine and director of information technology services at UC San Diego School of Medicine in UC San Diego’s announcement. “That leaves the system vulnerable to the vagaries of road congestion, accidents, construction, and more. Travel time can be slow and unpredictable. A drone can fly over such obstacles in a much more direct way, and take just a few minutes to cover the same distance.”
If successful, drones may even be used for organ transport in the future.

Why San Diego is creating a drone hub

According to the FAA Aerospace Forecast and Drone Analytics, the global drone industry is projected to be worth $43 billion by 2024. As a region, San Diego has made a name for itself by capitalizing on nascent technologies that turn into major economic engines – think genomics and ICT/satellite technology.

That’s why in 2017, EDC – in collaboration with the City of San Diego – spearheaded San Diego’s application to serve as a site for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP). San Diego as one of 10 jurisdictions that received the designation and the densest urban environment selected.

Today, EDC serves a much larger role as the program manager through an agreement with the City of San Diego. In addition to streamlining the process and clearing regulatory hurdles for operators (think companies like Matternet), the IPP also looks to position San Diego as a UAS center of excellence by encouraging the growth of the industry and building homegrown talent.

To achieve these goals, the IPP has four focus areas (International Relations, Environmental Survey, Public Safety, and Package Delivery), and boasts over 20 private, non-profit, government partners.

How the IPP launched SD’s first medical specimen flight

On  February 25, the FAA officially approved the UC San Diego Health flight route that enabled Matternet, as the UAS operator, to carry out this mission until April 2023. UC San Diego is the second hospital system in the nation to transport medical specimens via drones.

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IPP update: Uber to start using drones for its food delivery and more

Uber to start using drones for its food delivery and more

The Integration Pilot Program (IPP) reached a large benchmark on the food delivery mission, which included a successful test flight with Uber Eats on San Diego State University campus. Starting this summer, Uber will be using specially crafted drones developed by its flight arm, Uber Elevate, to grow the company’s food delivery program. Giving way for Uber Eats to operate in the region’s airspace, San Diego Office of Homeland Security has been integral in this initiative with coordination from EDC, in order to obtain the necessary waivers and certifications from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through the IPP. Read more about this program here.

The IPP is rapidly moving forward on the first-ever international Unamnned Aircraft Systems (UAS) flight, which is made possible in coordination with EDC’s partners at CAPE Aerial Telepresence and the City of Tijuana. The project has also been working diligently with Matternet, the medical delivery operators, to determine the route for the first blood sample test delivery.

Next up: EDC, in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton, is planning the process for a drone conference, which is slated to take place in February 2020. The themes include San Diego as a center of excellence in the emerging technologies industry, inclusivity, and deep dives into the unique challenges of UAS integration. A planning committee is being formed, involving possible participation from local government partners, local industry leaders, nonprofit stakeholders, and higher education institutions. Expect more details on the conference coming soon.

EDC-led program helps Chula Vista PD hit new drone milestone

From surveying land after natural disasters to delivering packages, drones offer a world of possibilities to advance society and unlock economic potential. However, in order for this type of drone work to become a reality, they must be able to operate beyond a visual line of site(BVLOS). At the moment, no one is allowed to fly BVLOS in U.S. airspace without obtaining a special, hard-to-get waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Chula Vista Police Department is the exception. As part of the FAA’s Integration Pilot Program (IPP), San Diego is one of only 10 agencies nationwide selected to partner with private sector entities to accelerate safe UAS integration and innovation both regionally and nationally. In October, the Chula Vista Police Department announced a new test program to deploy drones as first responders. Now, thanks to the support of CAPE, Airmap and, Skyfire, the Chula Vista PD has become the first public safety agency within the 10 IPP destinations to receive a beyond visual line of sight waiver. This waiver will help Chula Vista continue to expand its Drone as First Responders program across the city providing faster responses and better services to the community.

San Diego’s IPP is comprised of the city of Chula Vista, the city of San Diego, and San Diego Regional EDC. Recognizing the potential of drone technology for the regional economy, EDC plays a key role in driving the IPP work and supporting the cities of Chula Vista and San Diego with successful integration.