Healthcare Drone Deliveries in 2023

The use of Drones or UAS (Unmanned Aviation Systems) for commercial medical transport in the US is to hit $1.8 Billion by 2032. Medical Drone delivery services industry is anticipated to register 25% CAGR between 2023 and 2032.

As Supply Chain Executives build or expand their distribution brick and mortar infrastructure, what do they need to take into consideration to accommodate drone deliveries?  Medical deliveries by drones will typically fall into two categories:

  1. Intra-campus and inter-facility movement of critical medical supplies within the health system’s network.This could include blood samples flown from free-standing Emergency Rooms to a centralized laboratory to facilitate faster lab test results for patients.
  2. Re-supply and redistribution from external suppliers.Health systems will receive commercial drone shipments from vendors and distributors to their distribution centers or directly to the point of patient care.

In this scenario, a regional manufacturer of site-specific tissue called ECM’s (Extracellular Matrices) will use drones to provide a new type of “Just in Time” delivery…directly to an off-site Ambulatory Surgery Center.  These patient specific deliveries will allow better treatment customization, which will improve patient outcomes.  Health systems will have less money tied up in on-hand surgical inventory and worries about product expiration dates will be reduced.

When Bill Moir, Vice-President of Supply Chain at Henry Ford Health System, considered the construction of his new distribution center, he took into account deliveries via drone and purposefully incorporated flexible infrastructure.  “While there is a lot we don’t know yet regarding the facilities required to land and deploy drones at scale, I was able to make some general assumptions”, Bill said.

First, Bill made sure that one of his new loading docks had “drive up” access, instead of the normal loading dock, which can be 4’-5’ off the ground.  The paved ramp, which is located at the end of the building, will allow drones to be brought into the building on rolling carts.

Bill considered the human element when thinking about how drone deliveries will be handled by his Supply Chain Team.  He has the ability to use some flexible space right inside the drive-up ramp for a separate drone management office or as a hangar for after hours drone storage.  He made sure there is adequate power and internet capabilities wired to that end of the building for the charging and connectivity drones require.

Here are some additional ways that Health System Supply Chain Executives can plan the infrastructure that will be necessary to accommodate drone deliveries in the future:

Supply chain executives should consider practical steps they can take today to anticipate a future that includes drone deliveries at scale.  This is an exciting and dynamic time, as health systems discover more ways to use drones to improve patient care and drive operational efficiencies.