AT&T, Softbox, Merck test drone delivery of medical supplies
AT&T said the trial, which was carried out in Puerto Rico, used an LTE-connected drone
AT&T has carried out a trial in partnership with U.K. temperature control pharmaceutical packaging provider Softbox Systems to test the efficacy of the delivery of temperature-sensitive medicines using drones.
Powered by AT&T’s internet of things (IoT) technology, the test run featured an LTE-connected drone carrying Softbox’s thermal packaging system Skypod and medicines from healthcare firm Merck & Co. The trials were conducted in various locations across Puerto Rico.
The U.S. carrier said that an LTE-connected drone successfully completed demonstration flights.
“Merck is pleased to collaborate on this innovative new model for delivering medicines to patients in areas affected by natural disasters,” said Brenda Colatrella, executive director, Corporate Responsibility at Merck. “We’re proud of our long history of expanding access to our medicines and vaccines and collaborating to provide humanitarian assistance. The drone test flights give us hope that we will be able to provide a reliable supply of our medicines for disaster.”
AT&T’s IoT technology tracks the Skypod with data viewed on a web and mobile app dashboard. The data includes near-real time external and internal temperatures of the box and its location. Light exposure data helps signal if there is box tampering during daylight, by determining if the box is open or closed, AT&T said.
The AT&T Global SIM and AT&T Control Center connect and manage the Skypod’s sensor data transmission. The web and mobile app reporting dashboard uses the AT&T Asset Management Operations Center.
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, the telco added.
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.
AT&T and Softbox have adapted the Skypod from a connected flask prototype developed in the AT&T Foundry. It moved the IoT sensors that track temperature and location from the lid of the original prototype and fit them into the smartbox.
“We’re proud to be working with AT&T in this dynamic, industry-first trial. The connected Skypod could be rapidly deployed globally in times of humanitarian disaster relief,” said Softbox Technical Director Richard Wood.