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SUNY Upstate using drones to transport COVID test kits across campus

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
One of the drones used in test flights by SUNY Upstate.

SUNY Upstate Medical University is using drone technology to transport COVID test kits across its campus. It could lead to the university using drones to carry other medical materials in the future.

The drone flew 2,500 feet from the Upstate University Hospital helipad to the parking lot of the CNY Biotech Accelerator. It went 150 feet up into the air carrying a COVID test kit, before it lowered down and dropped the package.

Tripp Shannon with DroneUp, the drone operator for the test flights, said they’ve been working with the FAA for seven months to get a flight over people and moving vehicles waiver.

“This is a first of its kind,” Shannon said. “This is the future that you’re seeing, in how packages are going to be delivered both business to business and have packages going from businesses to consumers.”

Shannon said the FAA waiver is specifically for COVID test kits, but he expects they will ask for amendments to add other package types.

Upstate University Hospital CEO Dr. Robert Corona said drones could be used to transport all kinds of specimens, like tissue, blood and urine samples, from University Hospital to Community Hospital and the Biotech Accelerator.

“Because we have our specialists decentralized, we want to be able to move the specimens as quickly as possible between those three places,” Corona said.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.