Flirtey, the Nevada-based drone startup that completed the first legal urban drone delivery in March, has hit another milestone. On Wednesday, the company demonstrated its drones’ ability to deliver medical supplies and test materials to and from an offshore vessel, marking the first such flight in the U.S. Drones will eventually enable medical relief to locales not accessible by roads or other means.
In an interview with The Guardian, Dr. Timothy Amukele, a Johns Hopkins professor and co-organizer of the demonstration, said medical deliveries are more touchy than getting shoes dropped off by Amazon (amzn). Blood samples, for instance, can be ruined by excessive jostling or vibration.
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“We want to see what tasks the drones can perform and if the drones have similar effects on samples they carry,” Amukele continued.
Many disaster-prone areas are coastal, and may be more easily reachable by sea than land. Drones might have been useful, for instance, after the 2011 tsunami and earthquake that devastated large portions of coastal Japan, or the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunamis that battered Thailand.
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The demonstration took place in New Jersey, in front of a small crowd of onlookers. TechCrunch reports that the crowd included members of the nonprofit Field Innovation Team and the United Nations’ humanitarian arm.
It came just a day after the FAA laid out new rules for commercial drone usage, which is sure to set off a wave of this sort of testing.