Medical Drone Deliveries Coming in October to Smith Island - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Medical Drone Deliveries Coming in October to Smith Island

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Zipline International medical drone. (Photo: Zipline International) Zipline International medical drone. (Photo: Zipline International)
Aerial view of Smith Island. (Photo: WBOC) Aerial view of Smith Island. (Photo: WBOC)

SMITH ISLAND, Md. - An initiative to start delivering medical supplies and prescriptions to residents on Smith Island could start as early as next month.

The company Zipline International was part of a plan created by the White House to make medical deliveries to rural locations in the United States.  Smith Island was one of the three locations chosen to begin the project.

Before Zipline can make any deliveries, the company must obtain waivers and clearance from the FAA, a process that could take several months to complete.  Zipline's partner in the drone project is the Crisfield Clinic and Dr. Kerry Palakanis.  Dr. Palakanis said while Zipline waits for final approval, she has been working with the University of Maryland, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and two medical drone companies already cleared in the state of Maryland, to get the Smith Island project off the ground/

"All of us are working together to create a test model that we can launch and start working as early as October," Dr. Palakanis said on Wednesday.

Some Smith Islanders spoke with WBOC on Wednesday and said they don't believe the project is necessary.  They said, while waiting for their boat back to the island, that their medicine is already delivered on a daily basis by boat and don't think a drone is going to make a difference.  However, the drone delivery system not only speeds up the delivery process for islanders, but it will go hand in hand with the telemedicine technology already in place on the island.

"You as a patient, for example, have a health problem.  You contact somebody via telemedicine providers.  You see your health care provider via telemedicine and they say 'we're going to provide this medicine for you and it's going to be delivered to you by a drone package,'" Dr. Palakanis said.

Dr. Palakanis said to her knowledge, Smith Island will be the first place to put telemedicine and medical drone deliveries together.  Meaning, a Smith Islander who is sick will never have to leave to the island to receive care.

There is no date set for the first official flight but those involved in the program are shooting for mid to late October.

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