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Ohio is already planning how flying cars and drones can deliver health care faster and better

Ann Thompson
Kittyhawk was one of a handful of companies showcasing eVTOLs at the Springfield-Beckley Airport Aug. 22 and 23. First responders realize these electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles could be useful in rescuing people and transporting medical equipment around the state.

Jobs Ohio is creating corridors where the vehicles can transport blood, organs and different supplies between hospitals

It’s not about having cool technology, says Elaine Bryant, with both the Dayton Development Coalition and JobsOhio, when she talks about flying cars and drones. “This is going to change our lives and how we deliver health care.”

Bryant hosted a panel on health care Aug. 23 during the National Advanced Air Mobility Industry Forum at the Springfield-Beckley Airport.

Ohio, with the help of the Air Force Research Lab, is seen as a national leader in attracting eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, sometimes called flying cars) and drone companies for testing. The state would like those businesses to expand here and manufacture their vehicles.

Fly Ohio, Right Where it Started

Ohio is also preparing to use eVTOL and drones to make EMS response and blood, drug and organ delivery faster and better.

“We’re talking to the hospital industries in Ohio — a network of hospitals — about the ability to create corridors where they can transport organs and different supplies between hospitals in the state,” says JobsOhio’s Terry Slaybaugh.

One Greater Cincinnati company that has been testing drone delivery for more than five years is Workhorse. Aviation attorney Myron Wright works with the company. He says a demo in May 2021 was the first mission of its kind in Ohio to move medical cargo. An autonomous drone flew from Ohio State to a hospital in Marysville.

According to Wright, “Workhorse has done proof of concept with people like OSU where they simulated organ delivery. They did it against a ground courier and it of course is more efficient by drone.”

Workhorse sold its hybrid eVTOL SureFly to Moog in 2019. Moog is testing SureFly at Lunken Airport and will move it to Springfield sometime soon.

Getting blood to hospitals when they need it

Director of the Hoxworth Blood Center Dr. José Cancelas is very interested in using drones to transport blood. He wants to show hospitals “that it is feasible and possible and then in the long-term, to provide this service to a much longer range of hospitals that are located up to 300 miles away,” he says.

Hoxworth currently serves Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana.

No leaving the house for prescriptions

Hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic see eVTOLs and drones as a way to make health care easier for the patient. “The question is, as we expand our tele-health, how can I have a face-to-face appointment with a physician, have a prescription prescribed, and then have that delivered to me without leaving my house?" says the Clinic's Geoff Gates.

So should local departments look at budgeting for this advanced technology?

All these advancements are great, but city and county emergency services aren't yet budgeting for them. LIFT Aircraft's Kevin Rustagi encourages police and fire departments to consider buying eVTOLs.

“In the current modern day we have written into budgets spending for assets like ambulances, fire engines; there are no budgets for eVTOL first response.” He encourages companies like his show people what can be.

The city of Hilliard, Ohio, is partnering with Hilliard-based startup GhostWave, Inc., LIFT Aircraft, and Parallax Advanced Research to study how police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other public safety groups can use drones and ultralight aircraft to respond to emergencies faster and better.

Ann Thompson has years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology