CHURP: Covid Humanitarian UAS Operation

The COVID-19 Humanitarian UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Response Partnership (CHURP) has announced the successful finish of their current test phase, which included drone delivery of COVID testing kits.

CHURP is a partnership formed over nine months ago by Emergent 121 Consulting and Akin Gump, LLP. It’s a timely project to design and test extended drone operations – and to demonstrate the benefit of drones to the community.

“Through this operation, CHURP worked to give public health officials the technology for public safety awareness, public address capability, contactless delivery, and other solutions that enhance response speed and efficiency while also significantly reducing personnel requirements and potential exposures,” says a press release.

“It has been a privilege to leverage diverse talents and resources while building consensus between agencies,” said Nancy Chrisman, CEO, Emergent 121 Consulting, sponsor and facilitator of the project. “We are eager to further our testing, aggregate our successes, and scale this humanitarian mission to combat COVID-19 effectively.”

DroneUp was the drone solutions provider for the CHURP team: conducting training, testing, and evaluating drone use cases. DroneUp has been a leader in drone delivery of COVID test kits, working with Walmart in Las Vegas and receiving an industry-first FAA waiver to support the expansion of the program.  While drone delivery has many benefits, getting COVID test kits from a residence to a testing facility quickly – and without contact between a potentially infected person and other staff – is an incredible use case in the current environment.

“The scale of partnership and success we’ve had in these efforts to aid in our national COVID response is encouraging,” said Tom Walker, CEO of DroneUp. “With expert representation from every stakeholder group, we are demonstrating the first of many ways UAS will tangibly improve the way we react to public safety and health concerns.”

“The ability to quickly and safely transport pharmaceutical items is a game-changer,” said Tony Basile, COO at NUAIR. “In the healthcare world, where every minute counts, the collaborative work we’ve done here showcases the viability, economic advantages, and life-saving potential of contactless drone deliveries.”

The first operation involved drone transport of COVID-19 testing kits between buildings on the SUNY Upstate University Hospital Campus in downtown Syracuse. “After testing operational procedures and a comprehensive review about COVID-19 related drone delivery, officials learned how to minimize potential exposure to health personnel and public members,” says the release.  “The team also exercised real-time airspace deconfliction protocols when an air ambulance flight landed with a patient at the hospital’s heliport.”

The second use case utilized three UAS in support of New York State University Police at Upstate Medical University to monitor the medical delivery operation described above and identify any potential safety risks on the ground. The information gathered will be used to support future scalable operations for public safety agencies in response to COVID-19 and other emergencies.

The operations willl help to move similar projects forward, identifying the processes and procedures for all parties concerned in the mission and providing data points that other companies and regulators can use.

“We are grateful that CHURP chose Syracuse and the SUNY system to validate this vital technology,” said Dr. Robert Corona, CEO of Upstate University Hospital. “We are very excited to be the first-ever hospital…in fact leading the first event ever where this FAA certificate of authorization for flying over a population and traffic was used. This was a wild dream of mine from back in my days as pathology chair. Our Upstate team, along with incredible private industry partners, made it happen. We moved a COVID test kit today from the hospital to our molecular diagnostics lab in the CNY Biotech Accelerator. In the future, drones will be seamlessly integrated into our hospital and health system network throughout CNY and eventually beyond.”


Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.


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