Medical drone delivery specialist Zipline is finally ready to expand operations in its home country. The company is looking at a spring 2022 timeline to begin supplying medicine and healthcare equipment to homes in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Zipline is a San Francisco-based drone delivery startup that has been serving rural communities in African nations since 2016.
In the US, however, Zipline made its first medical drone delivery only in May 2020, providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to Novant Health Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, as part of a limited-permission pilot program.
Now, for its planned backyard drone deliveries in Salt Lake City, Zipline has signed a service agreement with Utah-based not-for-profit medical group Intermountain Healthcare, Bloomberg reports.
The first deliveries are being mapped out for the spring of 2022, with the company expecting to reach hundreds of patients per day within four years of launching the drone delivery service.
Zipline says its autonomous drones would be able to reach about 90% of homes in the Salt Lake City metro area, dropping payloads of up to four pounds by parachute into people’s yards and driveways.
Approval from the FAA is still pending, but the company is optimistic it will receive the Part 135 certification that’s required for package delivery in the coming weeks.
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Zipline general counsel, Conor French, tells Bloomberg in an interview:
We’re excited to help move the industry beyond the pilot phase and build something that can ladder towards a large-scale commercial operation. We’re very confident that we will have Part 135 certification in time to do this.
Intermountain’s healthcare network consists of 24 hospitals and 215 medical clinics in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada, serving nearly half of Salt Lake City’s 1.25 million population. To begin, Zipline will focus on accelerating supplies to homebound and immunocompromised patients. In subsequent phases, delivery drones will fill routine prescriptions and deliver over-the-counter medications as well within a 15 to 30-minute window.
Zipline, which recently celebrated five years in flight, makes a delivery every four minutes on average. It recently surpassed 200,000 commercial deliveries and raised $250 million at a valuation of $2.75 billion.
It’s also worth noting that in recent months, the company has expanded its footprint in Africa significantly, signing new partnerships in Nigeria and closing an agreement to double its presence in Ghana to be capable of serving 90% of the country’s population.
As Keenan Wyrobek, co-founder and CTO of Zipline, sums up:
Over the last five years, we’ve established instant logistics infrastructure that is more practical, sustainable, and scalable than anything that came before. The 200,000 deliveries we’ve made over nearly 15 million miles of flight is a powerful testament to what we’ve built—and we are just getting started.
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