RALEIGH – Dr. Stuart Ginn, a pilot and former flight instructor, brings a keen eye to the evolving drone delivery program at WakeMed. And so far he likes what he sees, especially after the US Department of Transportation on Tuesday cited the pilot project as a key reason in approval a first “drone airline” for UPS.

Some 1,000 deliveries have been made so far, and Ginn says the skies are wide open when it comes to potential with drones seen as providing a boost to patient care in a variety of ways.

WRAL caught up with Ginn, a surgeon and medical director of WakeMed Innovations, to discuss the project shortly after the DOT announcement. WakeMed notes that Ginn’s efforts set the stage for the project which includes the North Carolina Department of Transportation and other partners. (NC DOT has big plans to expand drone testing.)

WakeMed photo

Dr. Stuart Ginn

  • How does WakeMed feel about the trial’s results? 

We have been very pleased with the results. We initiated the pilot program through the federally mandated Integration Pilot Program (“IPP”) along with the NCDOT and Matternet, so our internal teams have played a key role in shaping the operation including safety systems and procedures.

UPS’s entry into the project really helped to professionalize all of that.

FAA approves UPS for a ‘drone airline’ after WakeMed trial deliveries

  • Do they make business sense?

That really depends on how the technology ends up being deployed and used.

Certainly, at a certain scale, these deliveries likely offer a compelling cost advantage.

However, we are just as interested in looking at how this kind of technology can help shape the design of healthcare systems and services over time and on a larger scale.

  • Does this help improve patient care?

Yes, we believe it can and it already has in small ways.

Drone technology has the potential to significantly improve the care we can deliver to our patients, both directly through improved speed and turnaround times as well as reliability and visibility of parcel delivery within our healthcare system.

And more abstractly, by seamlessly and directly connecting our facilities in a unique way.

  • Is the trial ongoing?

Yes. As I stated, this project falls under the auspices of the Integration Pilot Program or IPP.

The initial footprint of our application to deploy this technology under the IPP included a larger network connecting more WakeMed facilities in the Wake County area.

We anticipate expanding the network, but obviously will do that in a stepwise fashion as we work closely with UPS, the FAA, the NCDOT, our technology partners and most importantly, our community.

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