Unmanned aircraft to land medicine in Somerset County

Somerset County Drone Medicine Delivery Zipline

This post originally appeared on http://www.delmarvanow.com/story/news/2016/08/06/drones-crisfield-smith-island-somerset-unmanned-aircraft/88348992/.

[Editor’s Note: Deliveries are planned in Maryland, Nevada and Washington.]

Private firms are on board with a federal-backed unmanned aircraft program that would deliver critical medical supplies to remote locations including Somerset County’s offshore Smith Island.

Demonstration mission flights with payloads like blood, medicine and medical products deemed lifesaving are planned for pockets around the country and in the San Juan Islands and include drops in Crisfield and on Smith Island, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced Aug. 2.

Mission flights would demonstrate the viability of unmanned aircraft technology in disseminating critical care supplies to remote parts of the country. Lifesaving deliveries are planned for the states of Maryland, Nevada and Washington and include drops at Native American reservations and their surrounding communities.

In Somerset, preliminary flights would be between the Crisfield Clinic in Crisfield and the three-community hamlet of Smith Island, located about 15 miles offshore. Other preliminary mission routes are planned between a health care distribution center in Reno and a tribal health clinic in Nevada; and between another U.S. location and the San Juan Islands, which are part of the state of Washington.

The announcement comes as rural Somerset County, one of the most economically challenged in Maryland, explores ways to create a sustainable economy and attract permanent residents and businesses, especially in Crisfield and on Smith Island where a once flourishing seafood industry has disappeared. The coastal region also was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and is in the process of recovery after significant damage to or loss of residential and business structures.

In the unmanned aircraft project, hard-to-reach areas would be served by Zipline International with support by Ellumen, ASD Healthcare and the nonprofit BloodworksNorthwest, according to the White House announcement.

Preliminary missions are expected to launch within six months of regulatory approval.

The commercial drone industry has an $82 billion or more projected economic impact in the United States, and, could support as many as 100,000 new jobs by 2025, according to the OSTP.

Other private sector commitments to expand technological capabilities and applications include a partnership between a retail drone delivery startup and a nonprofit medical group that focuses on humanitarian applications for drone delivery technology.The goal is to help humanitarian aid workers tackle complex logistical challenges that can make delivery of crucial supplies for health clinics and hospitals almost impossible, said the OSTP.

“This partnership will move the humanitarian community one step closer to safe and effective real-time deliveries of lifesaving medical supplies,” according to the OSTP.

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