CAPE MAY COUNTY, N.J. — Independent drone delivery service Flirtey and Dr. Timothy Amukele, an assistant professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, successfully conducted the first ship-to-shore drone delivery in the U.S. on the New Jersey coastline June 22.
“Imagine a future where in the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, Flirtey drones rapidly deliver emergency medical supplies, food and water,” said Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny. “During Hurricane Sandy more than 1.4 million liters of water, 1.6 million meals, and 1 million fliers were delivered by first responders. Imagine how much faster and further these life saving resources could be delivered by drone. This demonstration is helping to make that future a reality, and taking us one step closer to Flirtey’s mission to save lives and change lifestyles.”
The joint mission demonstrated how unmanned aircraft can provide life-saving aid to victims of a disaster, such as a hurricane or system-wide failure of electrical or communications infrastructure, company officials said.
Amukele has previously led successful research on the viability of using medical drones to transport blood samples and blood products.
Flirtey and Amukele conducted the flights at the invitation of disaster preparedness non-profit Field Innovation Team (FIT), which also hosted guests from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA), as part of the Drones in Disasters “Do Tank.”
FIT’s Do Tanks enable experts from a variety of fields to come together and collaborate to develop solutions to humanitarian disaster scenarios. Goals of the event include educating the private sector on humanitarian response and aeronautical research into the integration of drones into the national air space. Research was done in partnership with the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Flirtey drones carrying medical samples for emergency testing flew between an onshore medical relief camp at Cape May and a test facility on a vessel stationed off the coast. In a round trip, Flirtey drones then delivered medical supplies from the vessel to the onshore medical camp.
The demonstration had big implications for global humanitarian efforts. Eight of the 10 largest cities in the world are coastal cities, and more than 3 billion people, or 44 percent of the world’s population, live within 95 miles of the coast, according to the United Nations.
Ship-to-shore aid and medical deliveries by drone require a technical precision that Flirtey has been developing and refining, company officials noted. Flirtey was the first company to conduct an FAA-approved delivery in the United States, and the first company to perform a fully autonomous drone delivery to a home in the U.S.
Flirtey’s achievements have been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution for display at its Air and Space Museum, which accepted the Flirtey drone to join iconic American aircraft, including the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Wright Flyer, on display at the museum.