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Preservation of Supply Quality During Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Transport



Preservation of Supply Quality During Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Transport

Phase I SBIR proposals will be accepted.

Fast-Track proposals will not be accepted.

Phase I clinical trials will not be accepted.

Number of anticipated awards: 1 – 2

Budget (total costs): Phase I: up to $150,000 for up to 6 months



Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVS), or drones, have proven utility in aerial surveillance and mapping operations and for civil and commercial purposes, including law enforcement, agriculture and aerial photography amongst others. Many long-range flying drones are quite often fixed wing models that are fuel-powered, and require complex navigation controls and runways for take-off and landing. Thus, these drones are both cost-prohibitive and less agile than battery-powered multi-rotor UAVs.

Other limitations of using drones for logistics include current national aviation regulations for weight, altitude, maintaining visual line of sight (VLOS), and their inability to fly long distances without refueling or battery recharge. In the context of emergency public health response, drones could be extremely useful for transporting necessary supplies to remote or inaccessible locations. Supplies might include dry goods, but would certainly include clinical specimens, reagent kits, vaccines and other perishable goods. These materials would have to be transported at appropriate ambient temperature in order to be utilized as intended upon reaching their intended destination.

Project Goals

The primary goals for this project are to increase the utility of drone transport of perishable materials by engineering a lightweight transport box that is:


Impervious to outdoor temperature

Highly secure

In this way, patient specimens, vaccines, test kit reagents and enzymes must securely arrive at their intended destination at ambient temperature. Since battery technology is rapidly improving as evidenced by current patent applications, this is not a specific aim of the proposal.

Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables

The Phase I activities should include design of a drone transport box that meets the criteria above (i.e., airtight, lightweight, temperature controlled, secure). Ideally, a rotor or hybrid style (e.g., fixed wing with hover capability) drone used as the transport. Initial flight trials should be conducted in a controlled environment, and mimic extreme outdoor temperature and weather conditions while the internal transport box integrity and temperature of its contents is monitored. Transport box security and integrity should be measured against all disruptive conditions (e.g., falling, fire, immersion, etc.).


Availability of an agile device that can deliver supplies to and from remote locations during public health emergencies would save lives. Natural disasters such as floods, fires, and earthquakes often block communications and routes of access to victims. Similarly, disease outbreaks often begin in remote locations that are not easily accessed by public roads. Using drones to assist with triage and to carry needed supplies to and from sites of disaster and disease would decrease response time and avert further spread of disease and death, thereby improving recovery of affected populations.

Commercialization Potential

As drone technology becomes more mainstream, logistic requirements will become more sophisticated. At current, there is a great deal of interest in drone-mediated logistics among first responders and public health agencies, but the availability of a lightweight, temperature-controlled, secure transport box has excellent commercialization potential among private-sector entities as well. Firstly, as global aviation regulations relax to accommodate new drone technologies, hospitals and the healthcare sector will begin to adopt it for transport of materials and supplies, particularly blood and blood products, specimens and vaccines. Even more compelling is the burgeoning online retail business, since products sold may be valuable, requiring security, and temperature sensitive, requiring insulation.

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