Drone start-up Volansi starts medical deliveries for Merck in rural North Carolina
New drone technology firm Volansi has launched medical deliveries in North Carolina in cooperation with drug and vaccine maker Merck after raising $50 million in funding.
As part of the cooperation, Volansi has started delivering temperature-controlled medicines from Merck’s manufacturing facility in Wilson (North Carolina) to patients at the Vidant Healthplex-Wilson care centre (Vidant Health clinic). This is the first of three phases in the commercial healthcare drone delivery project.
Volansi explained that eastern North Carolina’s vast, rural environment with 1.4 million people across 29 counties can create challenges for people to access care.
“We’ve seen the world’s supply chain strained like never before from the impact of corona virus,” Hannan Parvizian, CEO and Co-Founder of Volansi, said. “There’s now an accelerated need for rapid advancements in supply chain technology, especially in healthcare. Drone delivery is one solution to getting critical supplies where they are needed, at the moment they are needed most.”
Volansi’s VOLY 10 all-electric drone can carry 10 pounds of cargo to locations up 50 miles away. The drone’s vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) system allows it to deliver fragile cargo with a “soft touch” automated release once the drone has landed at the delivery location. The VTOL system requires minimal infrastructure to operate and is also capable of delivering on the returning flight items to support order confirmation like temperature trackers and shipping confirmation.
“As a healthcare leader, Merck is very supportive of collaborations using new technologies to explore how one day we could help better serve the healthcare community. Our existing distribution system is strong, and this pilot helps us explore new innovative delivery options that would complement our existing supply chain capabilities,” Craig Kennedy, Senior Vice President, Global Supply Chain Management, Merck, commented.
Collaboration with FAA ensures safe deliveries, in line with state guidelines
Volansi is collaborating with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Programme and the North Carolina Department of Transportation to ensure that its deliveries are made safely and in accordance with state and federal guidelines.
The drone company will seek additional approval from the FAA to provide deliveries in additional locations, for phases two and three of the project.
In September this year, Volansi closed its Series B round of financing having raised $50 million. The round was led by capital firm Icon Ventures and included all existing investors, including LightSpeed Ventures, Y Combinator, and One Planet, with new investors being added, including Harpoon Ventures and Graphene Ventures. It was the third equity round for Volansi bringing the total funding to $75 million.
Volansi has over 65 team members in Northern California, Arizona, and Africa and plans to continue to expand its staff adding engineers, developers, and operators. “We’re going to accelerate the use of drone delivery in the US and global emerging markets,” the company stated.