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The Marines are testing drone medicine deliveries

October 22, 2019
US Marines on a medical drone exercise
US Marines on a medical drone exerciseZipline

The news: The US Marine Corps has successfully tested autonomous medical drone deliveries during four exercises in Australia, working with the Australian military and drone logistics company Zipline. The tests took place between July 30 and September 5.

The exercises: The aim was to prove that drones could autonomously deliver medicine, critical care, or other vital supplies in a war zone, according to Andrew Musto, program manager at the US Department of Defense’s innovation unit. The DoD first tested the idea with Zipline in the US last year. In Australia it flew over 400 sorties, including deliveries of mock blood and plasma supplies to “simulated mass casualty events.”

Why it’s notable: Medical deliveries by drone aren’t exactly a novel idea: just yesterday, for example, UPS announced plans to work with CVS Health to deliver prescription drugs by drone. What’s new here is doing it on the battlefield. Currently, supplies must be transported by convoy or helicopter, which is time-consuming and costly. “Whether you can get critical aid to someone badly injured in the first hour has a significant impact on the chance they will survive,” Musto said. Moreover, using convoys or helicopters means putting the troops in them in danger too. With drones, there’s no chance of further loss of life.

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