Zipline drones begin on-demand healthcare deliveries in NC

Zipline drone delivery healthcare

Less than a week after it received Federal Aviation Administration Part 135 certification allowing it to operate in the US as a commercial airline, instant logistics specialist Zipline launched regular drone delivery service of medical supplies and prescriptions in North Carolina, in support of its three major healthcare partners.

San Francisco-based Zipline is operating that new US healthcare drone delivery activity out of its hub in Kannapolis, located about 25 miles northeast of Charlotte. From that center, the company will transport supplies and prescriptions to customers spread over a 7,800-square mile area. In some cases, Zipline says, those will get to clients in hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, or private businesses and homes within 15 minutes of ordering.

Zipline is operating that additional US drone delivery network with North Carolina-based Novant Health, Florida’s Magellan Rx Management, and Cardinal Health of Ohio. All three companies were previous Zipline business partners, and each will operate independently within the newly launched aerial transport network.

Read moreFAA certifies Zipline to operate US drone deliveries as an airline 

Kickoff of the North Carolina hub marks another milestone for Zipline’s swiftly maturing on-demand instant logistics activity. Though it has gained most attention for its drone deliveries of medical supplies in a variety of African nations seeking to extend healthcare to underserved communities, Zipline has more recently been rolling out operations in its US homebase. 

In November, it began transporting orders to Walmart clients in the area around Pea Ridge, Arkansas, which has grown in scope and scale since. Zipline is similarly planning to expand its drone deliveries of healthcare and medical goods to customers around Salt Lake City, and has other domestic development plans in the works. 

As was the case when Zipline first began making healthcare supply deliveries in North Carolina during a 2020 spike in the Covid-19 pandemic, company CEO Keller Rinaudo says the objective of the new drone network is to forever change the way – and cut the time – products are transported to waiting end-users.

“We imagine a future in which goods are transported nearly instantly,” said Rinaudo. “Together with Novant Health, Magellan Rx Management, and Cardinal Health, we are making it a reality. In the process, we are setting the bar for care and convenience with instant logistics.”

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Novant Health’s executive vice president and chief transformation and digital officer, Angela Yochem, says the new operation is a logical extension of its first, pandemic-driven 2020 link-up with Zipline to transport medical supplies to North Carolina hospitals.

“Our launch of the nation’s first emergency drone operation was never the end-goal for our partnership with Zipline. Now we are transforming the patient experience by strengthening our virtual care ecosystem,” said Yochem. “While Novant Health has made great strides in our virtual care capabilities, there remains an opportunity for patients to receive all the care they need from home – from diagnosis to treatment. Innovative tools like Zipline’s on-demand deliveries allow us to completely reimagine a fully remote patient care model.”

Globally, Zipline says it has delivered over one million COVID-19 vaccines in Ghana, as well as medical supplies in Rwanda, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Kenya. In April it announced an operation to bring healthcare products to islands in Japan with partner Toyota Tsusho Corporation. 

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