COVID-19 test kits might be delivered by drone in Saratoga Springs, NY

The Saratoga Springs City Council approved a proposal from Big Rock Technologies, a finalist in the NATO Innovation COVID Challenge to make the city testing grounds for contactless delivery of COVID-19 test kits and medications by drone.

COVID-19 test kits might be delivered by drone in Saratoga Springs

The delivery of COVID-19 test kits and medications would come at no cost to Saratoga Springs, said Big Rock Director of Operations Adam Luaces.

To make the drone deliveries a reality, however, Big Rock Technologies will need to win a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Approval from the City Council is a major step in accomplishing this.

If Big Rock Technologies receives the grant the deliveries of COVID-19 test kits will not start until January 2022.

“We would love to be part of your city. That is all we can be asking for,” Luaces told the City Council. “It could help us build a robust innovation company here in this area where technology can be built upon. It will be extremely helpful to our company as we grow.”

Saratoga Springs is an ideal location Luaces said as it borders the 50-mile drone corridor to test commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations, that was established at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York.

He added that the delivery of medical supplies by drone would likely first go to first responders and people living in remote, rural areas.

Robin Dalton, the city Commissioner of Public Safety said she’s excited about drones delivering COVID-19 test kits and other medical supplies in Saratoga Springs.

“What I find so exciting about this is it’s a private, public collaboration that is spot on here,” Dalton said according to the Times Union. “It also brings great tech jobs to our city, which we are needing. … We could be pioneers. I thought this was an incredible opportunity.”

COVID-19 test kits might be delivered by drone in Saratoga Springs

The website of Big Rock Technologies, established in 2013, offers little information on the drone that will be used for the deliveries in Saratoga Springs. An illustration shows a proprietary drone design that will be able to “safely and effectively deliver 100 lbs of supplies, medicine, and testing to remote areas.” Each of the so-called smart-drones will be outfitted with a ‘revolutionary universal OS (Operating System)’ to create a robust aerial platform that can fly autonomously beyond-visual-line-of-sight )BVLOS).

As needed the drone can be outfitted with grappling hooks, payload carriers, refrigeration units, heat sensors, and autonomous flight reconnaissance equipment, says the company.

Big Rock Technologies’ smarts-drone offers some impressive features such as a range of 50 miles, a three to five hours flight-time, and a payload capacity of 100 Lbs. The drone can be operated in temperatures ranging from 4°- 120°F.

Big Rock Technologies partnered with Valqari, the Chicago-based start-up that develops delivery boxes specifically for drones where items can be dropped into securely.

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Haye Kesteloo

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