Air Methods, the nation’s leading air medical service provider, announced the launch of Spright, a newly formed drone solution, designed to help improve healthcare access and minimize supply challenges. Collaborating with Wingcopter, an industry-leading German drone manufacturer, Spright is creating a drone-based, healthcare-specific delivery network across the United States.
As a result of the nation’s efforts to keep healthcare costs down, Americans are impacted by a lack of immediate or timely access to healthcare resources. When these shortages impact the availability of blood products, medicines, diagnostics or small medical devices, the consequences can be dire. The solution is a flexible, rapid distribution network designed with 21st-century technology.
This new drone delivery network will improve access to urgently needed medical supplies for healthcare providers and the communities they serve. Air Methods will make this possible by deploying fleets of Wingcopter’s new flagship delivery drone, the Wingcopter 198. The team at Wingcopter has the proven technology and production capacity to enable Spright to create a nationwide network, built around Air Methods’ existing infrastructure of more than 300 bases, serving hundreds of hospitals, across 48 states in predominantly in rural areas.
This fall, Spright will be kicking off this endeavor by partnering with Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System, in Hutchinson, Kan., for the launch of an initial pilot project using Wingcopter’s delivery drones. This project will provide a proof of concept of how this new and exciting venture can provide needed relief and certainty for medical resources in rural America. Spright will provide additional details on this initial project as the deployment draws near.
The Wingcopter 198 is a state-of-the-art autonomous eVTOL delivery drone that enables safe, reliable, fast, and bi-directional medical deliveries. It is designed to provide maximum flexibility and ease of use in operations. The company’s patented tilt-rotor technology allows for vertical take-off and landing, while also enabling efficient forward flight over long ranges, thus eliminating the need for additional infrastructure. The drone has a range of up to 68 miles (110 kilometers), a maximum speed of 90 mph (145 kilometers per hour) and can carry a payload of up to 13 lbs. (6 kg). Therefore, the Wingcopter 198 is an excellent choice to make Spright’s vision a reality.
Wingcopter 198’s leverage BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) drone technology and will follow prescribed flight plans / paths, flown by specially trained operators remotely Arizona. However, ground operators will be necessary at take-off. Later, and only after approval by the FAA, the drones will be operated from a remote location.
The Wingcopter 198 can travel 110 KM (68 miles) on a single battery charge while operating at an efficient cruising speed of 100 KM per hour (62 mph) with a maximum cruising speed of 144 KM per hour (89 mph), but payload, wind and other factors can impact speed and range.
A Wingcopter 198 can transport a max payload of approximately 13 pounds/6 KG (using one single cargo box; 11 pounds/5 KG when carrying three packages).
Dual smart Li-Ion batteries (814Wh each) provide a redundant power supply for the drone.
The drones will not require a specialized landing pad. Hospitals will be able to utilize pre-prepared landing zones or other appropriate space around their facility, such as an empty lot, or neighboring green space. In some cases, the drones will not land, but instead will deploy the cargo via a specialized slow-drop delivery system.
The drone operations won’t impact general manned air traffic as the drones will always fly under 400 feet. However, in order not to get in conflict with low-flying aircraft such as helicopters, the Wingcopter 198 features ADS-B In, FLARM in and out, and remote ID (compliant to FAR Part 89) as awareness radios. A full Detect and Avoid (DAA) system is under development for deployment in 2022.
A local outbreak of a common illness like influenza or salmonella can create a rush of patients to local medical providers. Especially in smaller communities, the local supply of important medicines like anti-virals and IV fluids are limited. In these instances, Spright can deliver these medicines from other regional sources quickly.
Following a successful proof of concept demonstration and U.S. government agencies alignment with the project, an initial order of 100 Wingcopter 198 drones will be delivered for Spright’s initial deployment in the U.S.
Hutchinson Regional Medical Center today announced it will adjust staffing levels and reduce workforce as a direct result of the healthcare landscape being profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing supply costs, lower health insurance reimbursement rates and decreased patient volumes compared to pre-pandemic days.