Thursday, July 02, 2015

Appalachian field hospital to be testing ground for federally approved drone deliveries of medicine

A rural field hospital in southwest Virginia will be the testing ground to see how effective drones are for delivering medicine, Jenna Portnoy reports for The Washington Post. "Organizers expect the July 17 flights to the Remote Area Medical clinic to make history as the first federally approved package deliveries in the U.S."

"Pairing the technology with the feel-good RAM clinic—where residents of central Appalachia starved for health care often camp out for days for the chance to see a dentist or doctor—could cast drones in a new light," Portnoy writes. "In addition to demystifying commercial drones and opening the door to economic development, supporters say the technology makes good sense in Wise County," which has many remote areas.

Teresa Owens Gardner, executive director of the Health Wagon, which runs two stationary health-care clinics and a mobile unit that travels to remote locations, said that once "the clinics are in place, if she runs out of supplies, there’s no way to retrieve more from stockpiles that lie hours away," Portnoy writes. Gardner told her, “They’ve got the medication. We’ve got the patients. I’ve got patients dying without medication. [Drones] could really be game-changing and increase access and save lives.”

For the event, dubbed "Lets Fly Wisely," a NASA aircraft "will carry prescriptions for 20 people from the Tazewell County Airport to Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise County," Portnoy writes. "A pilot will be on board in case the plan goes haywire, but otherwise it will be controlled by remote stations on the ground." Drugs will then be loaded on a drone "and flown about a mile to the fairgrounds where the cargo will be lowered to the ground." (Read more)

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