NCDOT Helping in Effort to Use Drones in COVID-19 Relief Efforts

State transportation officials announced today a public-private partnership that will use drones to deliver critical medical supplies and food during the COVID-19 response.      

The N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation and its partners are inviting people interested in the initiative to learn more in an online public forum from 1-3 p.m. Friday. Please visit NCDOT’s Public Meetings website to register to participate in the online meeting.

“North Carolina has been a leader in demonstrating how drones can help people in times of crisis,” said State Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette. “We look forward to putting this technology into productive use as we work to help citizens and medical professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The initiative will be launched in May and officials are hoping to apply lessons learned from the effort to other drone relief efforts nationwide.

NCDOT and its public and private partners are working to launch the following three projects to aid in COVID-19 relief:

1)    In the Charlotte area, Zipline and Novant Health will deliver personal protective equipment and other medical equipment across Novant’s medical campuses.

2)    In Raleigh and Garner, WakeMed, UPS and Matternet are planning to start using a drone to deliver non-COVID-19-related supplies and equipment between WakeMed’s main hospital in Raleigh and the WakeMed Garner Healthplex. This will free up their delivery drivers to focus on fighting COVID-19.

3)    In Holly Springs, Flytrex is planning to deliver food from multiple restaurants in a shopping center to nearby neighborhoods.

The first two programs are aimed at reducing the strain on medical supply chains, and the third will make it easier for people to follow the stay at home order. Officials will use data collected during the project to determine how this technology can be used in other areas of the country. Funding for the individual drone missions is coming from the private partners, while NCDOT is coordinating the project. 

Since 2018, NCDOT has been a leading participant in using drone technology as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program. State, local and tribal governments, and private industries are working together to explore possible applications of drones.

(Note: The April 24 forum will be recorded, so anyone unable to participate live can tune in later using a link on NCDOT’s Public Meetings website.)