Success of delivery by drone of medical supplies helps put Tangier Island in range | Bay to Bay News

RICHMOND — A milestone event in reaching new heights for rural health care was held on Monday, Feb. 26 in Onancock.

As part of an initiative funded by the United States Department of … Non woven disposables

Success of delivery by drone of medical supplies helps put Tangier Island in range | Bay to Bay News

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RICHMOND — A milestone event in reaching new heights for rural health care was held on Monday, Feb. 26 in Onancock.

As part of an initiative funded by the United States Department of Transportation’s Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program, Riverside Health System, Virginia Institute for Spaceflight & Autonomy (VISA) at Old Dominion University, Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission (A-NPDC), the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC) and DroneUp collaborated to honor Heart Health Awareness month with a demonstration of heart medications delivered to patients by drone.

Part of the Elevating Health Care Access (EHCA), the initiative is the collective efforts of these partner organizations. VIPC provided the project’s initial funding, which enabled the team to jump start the exploration of use cases, concepts of operations, and Eastern Shore community engagement efforts.

Dr. Robert Hampshire, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology and Chief Scientist of the U.S. Department of Transportation, was in attendance at the event where the EHCA team conducted 1-2 mile line of site delivery of medication to patients via drone, showcasing the progress the team is making with the SMART Grant funds.

“This project marks a significant step forward in the advancement of drone technology to improve access to health care in rural communities by delivering medications straight to a patient’s doorstep,” Dr. Hampshire stated.

Eastern Shore resident Elva Malone was one of the patients who received her medication via drone during the demo. “I thought it was awesome. I thought this was like a little old bucolic town. I thought, boy, how progressive for a little place like this to get into drones. It’s the wave of the future, I hope. And I was certainly excited to be part of it.”

Congresswoman Jennifer Kiggans also attended the demo and spoke about her experience as a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner and a helicopter pilot in the Navy before serving in Congress. “Just understanding the needs of that patient population, and then when you take into account rural health care as well, I can think of no better usage for drones than to be able to deliver medication from the hospital or from the provider, to patients who have those transportation issues.”

The next step in operations is to conduct test flights under a recently obtained Beyond Line of Sight (BVLOS) waiver, ultimately traveling the 18-mile distance to Tangier Island.

Riverside Health System’s (RHS) service area includes the Eastern Shore of Virginia, a 70-mile stretch between the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, which is one of the few remaining rural regions on the Atlantic Seaboard. Due to socioeconomic factors, some residents may have limited transportation options to receive pharmaceutical care.

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, and heart disease are a common and potentially life-threatening condition that affects millions of individuals globally.

Timely and consistent access to medications is necessary for managing this chronic condition effectively. Residents of Virginia’s Eastern Shore have a higher prevalence of hypertension than the rest of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which is why this project is focused on reaching patients in this area.

Taking prescribed medications regularly can reduce unnecessary emergency department visits and improve health outcomes.

The initiative will help streamline the regular distribution of hypertension medication to Riverside patients who live on the Eastern Shore and Tangier Island, ensuring they receive the medications they need promptly. Drone delivery for critical medical cargo is in support of optimizing health equity and patient outcomes and improving supply chain efficiencies.

DroneUp’s delivery can carry supplies of up to 10 pounds and ensure they are delivered in an ongoing cadence, so patients are never without their prescription.

“This operation is a testament to our dedication, safety and innovation. At DroneUp, we’re honored to be a part of this incredible initiative that will create important pathways for life-saving medications to quickly and cost-effectively reach patients,” shared Tom Walker, CEO of DroneUp.

“We are grateful for the outpouring of support we have received for this pilot program,” said Nick Chuquin, President of Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital (RSMH). “We know that drone service delivery to our patients living in rural areas of our community will not only improve access to medications but also improve patient outcomes.”

“We truly appreciated and want to thank Rep. Jen Kiggans, Dr. Hampshire and Stan Caldwell, Director of the SMART Grants program, and all the local county supervisors for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend the event. The demonstration event was 100% successful and set the stage for our next demonstration flights of 3-5 miles Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). Then, following longer range test flights at NASA Wallops, we will be ready for the late spring flights to Tangier Island,” said John Costulis, Project Manager for the DOT SMART grant from ODU.

“This partnership is another important step in validating the opportunities for drone technologies and innovation to positively impact the health care and public safety industry. We’re pleased VIPC’s investment into DroneUp and initial investment into this pilot program have helped launch Elevating Health Care Access (EHCA) to enhance the lives of Eastern Shore residents,” said Chris Sadler, director of the Public Safety Innovation Center at the Virginia Innovative Partnership Corporation (VIPC).

“The FAA waivers that DroneUp secured are critical for the success of this project and will lead to many other life-saving delivery capabilities for first responders and medical providers in Virginia and beyond.”

To learn more about EHCA, visit

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