Altavian , a Gainesville, FL, based drone maker, has turned its production from drones to reusable masks to help answer the ongoing national supply shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Altavian’s engineers worked alongside doctors at the University of Florida and local hospitals to design a reusable face mask for frontline medical professionals. The key to this design is the incorporation of a material commonly found in hospitals as the filter.

Following an upswell of support from around the country to help get these masks into the hands of medical professionals who need them, an independent nonprofit — The American Mask Rally — was created to accept donations and distribute the masks all around the country for free. To date, requests for over 4,500 masks from medical professionals in 16 states have been placed, and delivery has already begun. The effort is not for profit. The 3D printing and assembly instructions are available free of charge.

Altavian and physicians at the University of Florida and local hospitals worked together to create an alternative mask, a combination of plastic and Halyard H600 that can be cleaned and sterilized between uses. (Credit: Altavian)

Unlike traditional hospital face masks, this innovative design consists of a reusable plastic mask frame with interchangeable filter material. At the suggestion of UF physician Dr. Bruce Spiess, the filter material is a double layer of Halyard 600 Surgical Wrap, which is commonly found in hospitals and typically discarded after surgical instruments are unwrapped. The mask and H600 filter can be sterilized and reused.

Among the number of physicians who have placed requests for these masks, Dr. Stavros Christoudias, located in heavily hit Northern New Jersey, recently placed a request for 1,000 masks.

The company is looking for other manufacturers to join them in addressing the needs of our country’s frontline workers. Although Altavian has been working to produce hundreds of masks a week, it is not sufficient to meet the ever-growing healthcare demands. The company is also seeking to collaborate with the 3D printing community. Anyone in the country with a 3D printer can make the mask with the free design that Altavian has released to the public.