Onancock, VA. (May 1, 2023) – The Virginia Institute for Spaceflight & Autonomy (VISA), Riverside Health System (RHS), DroneUp, and the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission (A-NPDC) have announced a working partnership, with startup funding provided by the Unmanned Systems Center at the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC), to initiate the exploration of potential applications, concept of operations formulation including demonstration flights in order to evaluate critical medical package drone delivery for Healthcare and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the state of Virginia.
The $75,000 start-up funding provided by VIPC has allowed the team to jump start the exploration of use cases, concepts of operations, and Eastern Shore community engagement efforts including medical package drone delivery demonstrations for a short-range patient prescription delivery, and extended deliveries demonstration to potentially enable local homebound patients to receive time-critical medical supplies easily and quickly.
“VIPC is dedicated to supporting the development of unmanned systems technology services that will improve Virginia communities,” Tracy Tynan, director of the Virginia Unmanned Systems Center at VIPC, said. “This project will study the feasibility of providing a fast and efficient drone delivery system for Riverside patients with limited access to transportation. We are looking forward to assessing the outcomes of this promising concept to enhance healthcare and EMS on the Eastern Shore.”
VISA, a part of Old Dominion University, has been a key leader in initiating and building this partnership to facilitate this project. This team and initial concept of operations started back in September of 2022 and grew out of VIPC’s interest in using “Drones for Good” as well as a Growth and Opportunity Virginia – ReInvent Hampton Roads planning grant that is exploring Autonomous Systems Routes and Corridors in the region. “Since September of 2022, we have been working hard to formalize this team, concept of drone operations, and various applications” said John Costulis, Deputy Executive Director for VISA. “This project embodies VISA’s mission to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystems for space flight and autonomy, create an environment of innovation, and educational opportunities for these two industries.” Dr. David Bowles, Executive Director for VISA added, “We’re so excited to be working with these wonderful partners for the chance to improve health outcomes on the Eastern Shore where VISA is located.”
Riverside Health System’s service area includes the Eastern Shore of Virginia, a 70-mile stretch between the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the few remaining rural regions on the Atlantic Seaboard. Due to socioeconomic factors, some residents may have limited transportation options to receive pharmaceutical care. With an increasing demand for pharmaceutical shipments, the collaboration between VISA, Riverside and DroneUP can answer the call. The drone delivery for critical medical cargo is in support of optimizing health equity and patient outcomes and improving supply chain efficiencies.
“We are excited to partner with VISA and DroneUp to offer an innovative drone delivery service,” says Nick Chuquín, President of Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital. “DroneUp provides us with the opportunity to provide patients in more rural communities with increased access to health supplies and pharmaceuticals with fast at-home delivery, thus improving patient experience and patient outcomes.”
By improving Riverside Health System’s last-mile delivery solutions with drone and innovative unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), they can increase access of medical supplies to Home Care patients; improve patient medication delivery times to and from remote locations; reduce staff time for non-core transportation and delivery functions; support local emergency management response for medical and non-medical related needs and more.
DroneUp, located in Virginia Beach, is a technology company focusing on commercial drone services. The company has been bringing the benefits of drones to local communities, organizations, and the planet since its inception in 2016. In 2022, DroneUp partnered with Walmart to open 34 delivery Hubs across six states. Drone delivery transportation from DroneUp will enable Riverside to meet the demands of an expanding service area.
“Drone technology continues to demonstrate new and exciting use cases, not only for serving businesses, but also for helping both individuals and communities. Delivering medical supplies is a perfect example to showcase how drones are constantly solving complex situations with innovative solutions,” said Tom Walker, CEO of DroneUp. “It is this type of forward-thinking that makes us excited to be working in this industry and demonstrating the real-world advantages that drones offer to those in need.”
The VIPC funding and partnership enabled the team to pursue, successfully compete, and be selected for a $1.877 million Federal Department of Transportation Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grant from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. More details to follow regarding this Federal level grant.
About Riverside Health System:
Riverside Health System (RHS) is an integrated health network providing over 2 million services annually. Serving Eastern Virginia since 1915, Riverside is guided by a mission to “care for others as we would care for those we love.” The health system offers a variety of services and programs in the areas of prevention, primary care, diagnostics, neurosciences, oncology, orthopedics, aging-related services, rehabilitation, medical education, home care and hospice. RHS operates four acute-care hospitals and a behavioral health hospital, in addition to a physical rehabilitation hospital and a critical illness recovery hospital in partnership with Select Medical. Riverside Medical Group has more than 750 physicians and advanced practice providers across a broad spectrum of specialties in over 110 locations throughout the region. Riverside Lifelong Health operates six nursing home facilities and three vibrant continuing care retirement communities alongside Riverside Home Health and Hospice services. In addition to these health care services, RHS operates the Riverside College of Health Careers and four medical residency programs. The company employs more than 8,800 team members throughout Eastern Virginia. For more information on Riverside, visit riversideonline.com.
DroneUp, a drone flight services innovation leader, is transforming organizations with drone delivery and drone technology solutions. DroneUp helps their global customers inspire the future of drone services by providing intelligent access to airspace, automation innovation, streamlined process management, operational efficiency, and a commitment to safety.
The Virginia Institute for Spaceflight and Autonomy (VISA), located on the Eastern Shore, is chartered to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystems for space flight and autonomy. The Institute is the hub to leverage Virginia’s world-class assets in space launch, autonomous systems, modeling and simulation and data science to solve real-world problems, such as those being explored by DroneUp and Riverside Health. Through industry, academic and governmental agency partnerships, VISA’s vision is to create an environment of research, technology, commercialization, and educational opportunities to grow the spaceflight and autonomous systems industry.
About Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission (A-NPDC):
Created by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the County of Accomack and the County of Northampton and joined by the Town of Chincoteague, the A-NPDC has been the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s regional planning organization since 1970. Tasked with supporting local planning and community development efforts and providing technical assistance on behalf of the Commonwealth, the A-NPDC focuses on issues of regional importance. The A-NPDC provides regional planning and assists various jurisdictions with diverse community development projects, such as grant-writing and financing of a regional and community broadband network and creation of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority to construction of the Tangier Medical Center.
About Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC):
Connecting innovators with opportunities. As the nonprofit operations arm of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA), VIPC is the commercialization and seed stage economic development driver in the Commonwealth that leads funding, infrastructure, and policy initiatives to support Virginia’s innovators, entrepreneurs, startups, and market development strategies. VIPC collaborates with local, regional, state, and federal partners to support the expansion and diversification of Virginia’s economy.
Programs include: Virginia Venture Partners (VVP) | VVP Fund of Funds (SSBCI) | Virginia Founders Fund (VFF) |Commonwealth Commercialization Fund (CCF) | Petersburg Founders Fund (PFF) | Smart Communities | The Virginia Smart Community Testbed | The Virginia Unmanned Systems Center | Virginia Advanced Air Mobility Alliance (VAAMA) | The Public Safety Innovation Center |Entrepreneurial Ecosystems | Regional Innovation Fund (RIF) | Federal Funding Assistance Program (FFAP) for SBIR & STTR | University Partnerships | Startup Company Mentoring & Engagement. For more information, please visit www.VirginiaIPC.org. Follow VIPC on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.