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Drone pilot program delivers medical samples, documents

UC San Diego Health drones
Posted at 6:12 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 21:21:51-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - UC San Diego Health unveiled a drone pilot program they are a part of, testing flights containing sensitive medical samples and documents.

The idea is to skip over traffic on the ground. "Unfortunately traffic seems to get worse and worse every year so what we're really trying to do is find alternatives for doing that," Matthew Jenusaitis, Chief Administrative Officer at UC San Diego Health said.

San Diego is one of nine cities in the country testing the FAA's Integration Pilot Program.

"So the goal is to establish how the FAA is going to monitor a lot of their drone flights as we move forward," James Killeen, Emergency Medicine Physician and Professor of Emergency Medicine, said. He said this will help determine how other private delivery companies, like Amazon, will operate drones.

This drone is three feet by three feet and carries a small UPS box. "The package itself is specially designed, impact resistant, temperature controlled... The container is locked, so only special people can open it," Killeen said.

The drone is also equipped with a parachute.

The program received FAA certification and authorization and will use low risk flight paths for the deliveries.

They worked with the military on how to safely flhy their drone and established a ceiling of 300 feet.

The flights themselves are completely automatic.

The future, Jenusaitis said, is limitless, "we could potentially be using this to fly samples from our clinic 20 miles away from here, in Rancho Bernardo, to the hospital."

Currently they are flying dummy samples. In the coming weeks they will fly medical samples from volunteer patients.

There are no cameras on the drones, to ensure privacy of those on the ground.

There are people designated to watch the drone when it flies to ensure it gets to it's destination.