Coastal N.J. Drone Delivery to Highlight Humanitarian Potential of UAS

Drone delivery company Flirtey, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the nonprofit Field Innovation Team (FIT) are teaming up to conduct what Flirtey says will be the U.S.’ first ship-to-shore delivery via unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

Flirtey and Dr. Timothy Amukele, assistant professor of pathology at the school of medicine, will carry out the operation on June 23 on the New Jersey coastline.

The purpose of the joint mission is to demonstrate how UAS can provide lifesaving aid following, for example, a natural disaster or a system-wide failure of electrical or communications infrastructure. Amukele previously led research on the viability of using medical drones to transport blood samples and is serving as a volunteer advisor to the project.

The two will conduct the flights at the invitation of FIT, which is also hosting guests from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA) as part of FIT’s Drones in Disasters “Do Tank,” which enables experts from various fields to collaborate on developing solutions to humanitarian disaster scenarios.

In a round trip, Flirtey will fly its drones, carrying medical samples for emergency testing, between an onshore medical relief camp at Cape May and a test facility on a vessel stationed off the coast.

Additional support for the event comes from the New Jersey Innovation Institute, the Delaware River and Bay Authority, the County of Cape May, the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation, and Atlantic Cape Community College. Five UN agencies will participate in the Do Tank, including UNOCHA, UNOICT, UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF.

“Imagine a future where in the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, Flirtey drones rapidly deliver emergency medical supplies, food and water,” states Matt Sweeny, CEO of Flirtey.

Last July, Flirtey says it was the first company to conduct an FAA-approved delivery in the U.S. In addition, its drone was recently accepted into the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum.

“We recognize the opportunity for us to engage with drone developers and operators in ensuring the principled application of game-changing technologies in response to humanitarian crises around the world,” notes Andrew Billo, UNOCHA’s humanitarian affairs officer. “Participating in this event supports the mission of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to mobilize and coordinate effective humanitarian action with a broad range of partners.”


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