Optionally Piloted Aircraft delivers food, healthcare to Denver City for Matador Consortium

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 4:49 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2022 at 6:35 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - While testing drones in healthcare delivery for weight and distance, the Matador Consortium used the opportunity to provide Thanksgiving meal kits as well as flu vaccines to the Denver City community.

“It blows my mind,” Christie Gibson, Coordinator for Denver City’s Operation Food Pantry said. “I am from a generation where this was not even thought of and I think it’s great.”

Gibson is referring to the aircraft that flew the several hundred pounds of meal kits from the South Plains Food Bank and HEB, taking off from Reese Technology Center in Lubbock. The Cessna single-engine plane had a pilot on board but only to keep an eye on the controls.

“Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are in the military, and they have them for different commercial and civilian uses,” Theresa Farley said. “What we’re trying to do is just get that beyond line-of-sight. Right now you have to maintain a civilian in line of sight. This is just the first step in proving that we can do it and we can do it safely. Then they won’t need to have a pilot in the aircraft monitoring it. The pilot will be elsewhere, monitoring that aircraft.”

Farley was the monitor for this mission, part of the Matador Consortium’s week of tests and demonstrations with UMC Health System. The various missions have simulated the transport of medical supplies using drones across the South Plains.

“The 206 [aircraft] is a workhorse,” Farley said. “It’s used all over the world, as exactly that, going into rural areas, unimproved landing strips and short runways and whatnot. This is the perfect tool for that.”

Aside from testing the heavy cargo, UMC Health System also took its AMBUS, which is one of 15 in Texas, to provide flu shots and testing. Hospital administrators see drone technology as a way to support the ambulance bus and its crew.

“It’s designed to be able to forward deploy to any disaster throughout the state,” Jeff Hill, Senior VP for Support Services, said. “When you go to a disaster like a tornado, we don’t necessarily know what we’re going to be walking into. It’s possible that the resources that are on that bus could be overrun really quickly. Where we see the drone technology being beneficial, would be able to provide forward support to the ambulance by moving supplies to the bus and also perhaps taking medical supplies back to the hospital.”

Hill said Thursday’s mission also provided training opportunities for the AMBUS crew if they were needed in a community like Denver City.

As for or residents of Denver City, they’re grateful for today’s support and the Consortium for looking to the future.

“Technology’s come a long way and we need it,” Gibson said. “I just am thankful that there are people that that can do this now for us. Denver City is very grateful that we have this opportunity, our hospital, and our schools. It’s just great.”