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History in the Making: Drone Transport Takes Flight at WakeMed

North Carolina is known for being “first in flight,” and now it will also be known as “first in unmanned flight”.

On Tuesday, March 26, 2019, WakeMed made history, taking part in pioneering a medical drone program in Wake County, NC with UPS. The drone flight, which took place at WakeMed’s Raleigh Campus, marks the first time the Federal Aviation Administration has allowed regular commercial or revenue generating flights of drones carrying products in the United States.

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Collaborating for Improved Health Care

The flight was a collaboration the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Matternet, UPS and WakeMed Innovations.

WakeMed Innovations is dedicated to taking ideas from conception to reality by connecting partners, employees and providers with tools and resources to accelerate innovation and enhance patient care and is headed by Dr. Stuart Ginn, a WakeMed ENT physician and medical director.  Prior to becoming a physician, Dr. Ginn was a commercial airline pilot.

There’s a quiet renaissance gaining momentum in the aerospace industry around the emergence of a new category of aviation technologies. Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Systems, represent the convergence of several disparate technologies distilled down to something incredibly functional in really new ways.

These seemingly simple devices represent a major leap forward in the domains of logistics and supply chain management, and the health care vertical has become an important strategic area for the development and integration of really viable operations for drone technology.

It can take several hours for samples to get to the lab using current methods and drones can transport samples in just minutes over the same distances with potentially obviously improved visibility and reliability within the system as well.  – Dr. Stuart Ginn, Medical Director, WakeMed Innovations

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Expanding Healthcare Access in North Carolina

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The UPS and Matternet program represents a major milestone for unmanned aviation in the United States.

Currently, the majority of medical samples and specimens are transported across WakeMed’s expanding health system by courier cars.

The addition of drone transport provides an option for on-demand and same-day delivery, the ability to avoid roadway delays, increase medical delivery efficiency, lower costs and improve the patient experience with potentially life-saving benefits.

Drone transport will improve speed of deliveries at a lower cost, enhance access to care and create healthier communities. WakeMed is committed to innovation, and we believe drone technology has the potential to achieve transformative improvements in health and health care delivery. – Donald Gintzig, WakeMed President & CEO

About WakeMed Innovations

WakeMed Innovations is comprised of members who are focused on consolidating WakeMed’s innovation efforts and activities and facilitating internal innovators and external partnerships towards accelerating health care innovations that will benefit patients.


About Stuart Ginn, MD

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Dr. Stuart Ginn is an Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) doctor with WakeMed Physician Practices – ENT – Head & Neck Surgery

After college, Dr. Ginn became a pilot with United Express airlines but felt a calling to health care. In pursuing a career in medicine, he was drawn to Otolaryngology (Head and Neck Surgery) due to the rapid pace of innovation in the ENT field. 

In 2017, Dr. Ginn was named medical director of WakeMed Innovations. In addition to his work with patients, Dr. Ginn’s role with WakeMed Innovations provides him the opportunity to connect WakeMed employees and providers with the new ideas, tools, and resources necessary to accelerate innovation and enhance patient care.

In 2018, Dr. Stuart Ginn forged a path that brought together his passion for flight and medicine – and it helped lead to this powerful development in drone technology that has the potential to achieve transformative improvements in health and health care delivery.

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