AT&T and Softbox collaborate on drone deliveries

US telecommunications giant AT&T recently worked closely with UK-headquartered Softbox on a drone demonstration intended to show that vital medicines can indeed be delivered by unmanned systems in times of crisis.
Softbox is a designer and manufacturer of passive temperature-control packaging solutions. It has worked with some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical, clinical research, biotech and logistics companies in attempts to overcome the challenges its customers face when shipping temperature-sensitive shipments.
In the recent demonstration, a drone carrying Softbox’s thermal-insulated packaging system known as Skypod also carried a smartbox powered by AT&T’s Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The drone is connected to the AT&T network, providing a communications path for flight plan and telemetry data between the drone and a ground control system.
The IoT technology tracks the Skypod and provides data viewable on a web and mobile app dashboard. The data includes near-real time external and internal temperatures of the box as well as its location.
Light exposure data also helps signal if there is any tampering with the box.
The dashboard app flashes alerts to help drive appropriate action. For example, it will send an alert if there is a change to the set temperature range of 2°C to 8°C. It will also send an alert if the drone goes outside defined geofencing parameters.
The field tests were conducted in locations across Puerto Rico.
“We’re proud to be working with AT&T in this dynamic, industry-first trial. The connected Skypod could be rapidly deployed globally in times of humanitarian disaster relief,” remarked Softbox technical director Richard Wood.
Also working with Softbox and AT&T on the demonstration flights was Merck, the US-based pharmaceutical company.
Brenda Colatrella, executive director, corporate responsibility for Merck, commented: “We’re proud of our long history of expanding access to our medicines and vaccines and collaborating to provide humanitarian assistance. The drone test flights give us hope that we will be able to provide a reliable supply of our medicines for disaster.”
AT&T’s region president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, John Vladimir Slamecka, declared: “This trial is a fantastic example of ‘IoT for Good’, showcasing that it’s possible for connected medical drones to deliver vital medicines to people in times of disaster.”

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