Drone Delivery of Lab Specimens: Spright and Interpath Partner with Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center

Spright and Interpath Laboratory Launch Medical Drone Delivery Pilot Service

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby

Today, Air Methods drone division Spright and Interpath Laboratory have announced a partnership for the launch of a first-of-its-kind drone delivery network capable of transferring lab specimens. The partnership conducted its first proof-of-concept test flight last week with the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center to Interpath’s main medical laboratory location in Pendleton, Oregon.

This new initiative is set to significantly cut down on the turnaround time of critical diagnostic test results for clinics such as Yellowhawk, while also improving patient satisfaction and allowing healthcare providers to more promptly perform follow-up care.

Working with the Pendleton UAS Test Site team, the project will deploy a Wingcopter 198 drone utilizing beyond line of sight (BVLOS) technology to carry out the 15-mile flight from Yellowhawk to Pendleton.

Currently, the process in place for laboratory services involves taking patient samples throughout the day before sending them out in batches in the evening for delivery to Interpath. These samples are delivered via gas-powered vehicles that typically drive thousands of miles each day to pick-up specimens from numerous clinics, hospitals and facilities.

The new drone-delivery initiative will replace the current process with a green solution that allows samples to be picked up and delivered throughout the day rather than overnight, while also removing gasoline-powered vehicles from roads and lessening local traffic. Additionally, increasing daytime sample processing abilities will result in more efficient laboratory operations, while also providing faster deliveries.

“Many communities located in remote or rural areas lack timely and convenient access to essential medical supplies and service,” said Spright President Joe Resnik. “We look forward to this proof-of-concept, showcasing drone delivery’s ability to solve many of healthcare’s existing access and efficiency challenges, while also improving patient care and experience.”

“Medical laboratory services in rural areas frequently must invest intensive time and resources into sample pick-up,” said Interpath Laboratory President Tom Kennedy. “We anticipate Spright’s drone delivery service will alleviate many of the drawbacks and costs associated with automobile-based delivery. This initiative represents an example of our embrace of innovative solutions that provide more efficient and effective services to our clients.”

Innovative new approaches like Interpath’s are helping rural and Tribal healthcare leaders to make terrific advancements for their patients and the broader communities they serve.

“If this pilot program is successful and we are able to utilize this service, our patients have the opportunity to benefit from more rapid test results and access follow-up medical procedures and services,” said Aaron Hines, CEO of Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center. “This project could help us further our mission of providing high-quality, primary healthcare for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR).”

Read more about Wingcopter and medical drone delivery:

Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.