Drones to the Rescue in Two Pennsylvania Counties Facing Cutbacks in Emergency Care

Pennsylvania residents have suffered major cutbacks in emergency medical care services in recent years.  The most vulnerable and needy live in remote rural areas where access to hospitals and clinics is often difficult, especially during inclement weather.  With fewer ambulances available to serve these areas, some budget-strapped county hospitals and health care agencies have decided to turn to drones to fill the void.

In south-central York County, for example, officials with WellSpan Health announced in late February a plan to use drones to deliver prescriptions and medical supplies to patients’ homes.  WellSpan has partnered with world-renowned Zipline, the world-renowned drone delivery company, to transport medical goods using Zipline’s state-of-the-art quadcopters equipped with a “druid” – an enclosed plastic carrying case – that can be lowered on a tether to precise ground locations, even in the face of stiff winds.

Zipline first pioneered medical supply deliveries in Africa in 2016 but has since expanded into a number US locations, including Ohio and Texas (in the latter case, in partnership with Walmart).  The company has a sterling safety and performance track record and is now authorized to make uninterrupted BVLOS flights over long distances – which perfectly matches WellSpan’s delivery needs in remote inaccessible areas of the Keystone State.

Meanwhile, 175 miles to the west, in Cambria, PA, the county planning and development commission has just received a $2 million grant to begin organizing drone deliveries of medical supplies to rural residents.  The first step is the installation of a ground-based sensor network that can allow aerial deliveries to be guided through valleys and forests and around  infrastructure obstacles to ensure safe and speedy deliveries to local residents.

A Zipline competitor, Virginia Beach-based Drone Up, which just received its own BVLOS flight authority from the FAA, has been commissioned to make the Cambria medical supply deliveries, which will commence some time later this year or next, once the full array of ground sensors is in place.

Cambria County received funding for the drone program from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program, part of the Biden administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which “provides $500 million over five years for state, local and tribal governments to leverage advances in technology to create safer, more efficient and more innovative transportation systems,” according to a DOT release.

The Cambria operation could serve as a model program for other areas of the country still contemplating long-distance BVLOS flights.   According to federal and local officials, the level of interagency cooperation in the current planning and development phase is unprecedented.  Everyone from the United States Geological Survey and the Department of Agriculture to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Administration, local 911 agencies, FAA airspace management, and state and federal DOT officials are sharing their data and technical expertise to “build a safe, advanced aviation environment,” says Cambria County GIS Director Stephen Kocsis.

Cambria has been hard-hit by a loss of EMS services in recent years.  Art Martynuska, director of Cambria County department of emergency services and its 911 director, says the county has closed 35 EMS services since 1977, with the pace accelerating in recent years.  “We’ve dropped 72% of what we once had. So we have to find innovative ways to try and help. That’s what this [drone program] is.”

WellSpan says the use of Zipline drones in York County will include sophisticated digital tracking so that recipients know exactly when their supplies, including life-saving medications requiring cold storage or AED devices are involved.  The drones will also help the health care agency meet its goal of a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

ABOUT US: DroneVideos.com is a Nationwide Media Company specializing in custom Drone Videos for real estate, commercial, farms, construction, golf courses, roof inspections and more. All of our Drone Operators are fully licensed and insured. When you purchase a Drone Video Package from us, you will receive a video professionally edited, color corrected and presented to you on an SEO-Friendly webpage that you can easily share online and on Social Media with a click of a button. Click here to get started.

Previous Drone News:

Start Your Order
We Offer a Variety of Drone Video Packages
to Fit Your Needs and Budget