Different ventures in the U.S, U.K and Ireland are employing the technology to reach far off places and people most in need.
Both the United States and the United Kingdom are at the top when it comes to the number of COVID-19 infections and the resulting deaths. As is the case elsewhere, the majority of these deaths have been reported in the elderly population— coming across as the most vulnerable age group. While the local authorities have been scrambling their resources desperately to keep with the momentous challenge, examples of using technology to solve some of these problems have emerged.
During these rough times with countrywide lockdowns, supply chains and the need for them to keep functioning has gained critical importance. The physical distancing rules in effect globally to stop the spread of the virus have caused the people to stay pegged in their homes as much as possible. E-commerce giant, Amazon has become the front runner in providing all the essential supplies to people holed up in their residences, as people avoid going outside.
Florida is one of the most favorite destinations for retirees in North America and incidentally hosts America’s largest retirement community — The Villages, which has a population of more than 135,000 residents. As discussed earlier, senior citizens living in such communities are the most vulnerable group and thus need to be protected by all means possible.
In an endeavor to reduce the exposure of the residents of this community, UPS’ drone subsidiary dubbed as UPS Flight Forward and Pharmacy giant CVS Health recently announced the launch of a drone delivery service of prescription medications to ‘The Villages’ this month. UPS got the approval of this service back in October and the duo made history in November, with the first-ever drone delivery of prescription medications from a CVS retailer to a residential home in Cary, North Carolina.
The drone delivery program which started off with moving goods around a single hospital campus last year has is now expanding to include B2C deliveries — most importantly, delivering medication to people in need during this time of a pandemic. UPS faces stiff competition from Amazon, FedEx, and Alphabet’s Wing Aviation to lead the drone-delivery space.
“I thought I would never see the day that there would be such technology that I wouldn’t have to be driving into town and back up to get my medicine — brilliant.”
~ Fidelma Gleeson, 70, Monegall resident
Similarly, a Wales (UK) based drone company Manna Aero is delivering medicines and other essential supplies to vulnerable people in the town of Moneygall — a small rural community in Ireland. The autonomous drones, which were conducting fast-food delivery tests earlier, have abandoned the initiative to take up something way more important.
The drone can carry up to 4kg (9lb) in its cargo cassette and is capable of handling handle up to 100 deliveries a day. Manna Aero is looking at the possibility of testing in the UK within weeks and eventually working with the local health authority, the NHS to reach far-flung areas during the pandemic.
“A great assistance in a rural area where there may not be as much support as you might have in the city. In these troubled times, it’s great to see how technology is coming together to assist us in helping our patients.”
~ Dr. Colm O’Reilly, Local medical practitoner
Staying in the UK, the transport authority sanctioned the funding for drone tests and a new air traffic control system in March. The move was expedited with the ongoing pandemic and the need to get critical supplies to hard to get areas — the first such mission is now carrying medical supplies from Hampshire (UK mainland) to the Isle of Wight.
Initial flights that would be carrying Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and would only take 10 minutes — significantly reducing the time between the two places. Four flights per day will be made, depending on the needs of the NHS. The specs of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) include a petrol-fuelled Windracers Ultra fixed-wing drone, capable of carrying 100kg for up to 1,000km (621 miles).
Although the pandemic has brought a lot of pain and suffering for the people, it has also shown, in more ways than one, how technology can be used for the good of people.
Written by Faisal Khan