When Medicine Flies

August 24, 2018
By Chris Penrose

Disaster is still fresh in the minds of the people of Puerto Rico. Devastated by one of the worst hurricane seasons on record last year, the island is still in recovery mode.

This week, we participated in a trial in Puerto Rico with our UK-based customer Softbox  and pharmaceutical company Merck. The purpose was to prove that unmanned aerial vehicles can safely deliver temperature-sensitive medicines. Even in difficult-to-reach terrains.

This could be a game-changer when time is of the essence to deliver vital medicines following a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis.

During the trial, an LTE-connected drone carrying Softbox’s thermal insulated packaging system ‘Skypod’ was flown between locations across the island. The Skypod includes a smartbox with Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity. It’s an adaptation of the connected flask prototype we developed with Softbox Systems in our Plano Foundry, and showcased earlier this year.  

The Skypod is designed to maintain its contents between 35 °F and 47 °F. Keeping drugs in that temperature range can be challenging for pharmaceutical companies. Plus, it’s expensive if something goes wrong.

Our IoT technology tracks the Skypod with reporting data accessible through a dashboard. The data includes near real-time external and internal temperatures of the box and GPS location. Light exposure data helps signal if the box is open or closed. 

The dashboard app flashes alerts in near real time if there is a change to the temperature. It will also send an alert if the Skypod’s location breaches defined geofencing parameters. 

The drone is also connected to the AT&T network, providing a communications path for flight plan and telemetry data between the drone and ground control system.

It’s encouraging to see our collaboration with Softbox so quickly take off in a way that can truly save lives. IoT solutions have the potential to make a huge impact in the world around us. This is a fantastic example of IoT for Good.

Learn more in our press release and check out the video from our trial.

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