Health Via Drone: Zipline Now Delivering Medicine Via Fixed-Wing Drones In North Carolina
Zipline’s drones launch like fighter jets off aircraft carriers, drop packages like paratroopers gliding down on customers’ homes, and “land” by running into an aerial arrestor hook. In the process, they’re now delivering medication from health management organizations to homes, pharmacies, and hospitals in a 7,800 square mile area in North Carolina.
All in, the company says, as little as 15 minutes, and while dumping 98% fewer harmful emissions into the air we breath than ground-based car or truck delivery.
“We imagine a future in which goods are transported nearly instantly,” Ziplin founder and CEO Keller Rinaudo said in a statement.
“North Carolina is first in flight, and Zipline’s work is taking us to new heights,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper also said. “This innovative partnership will increase access to health care for our community.”
The three healthcare organizations piloting the service (so to speak) include Cardinal Health, a distributor of pharmaceuticals, medical and laboratory products, Magellan Rx Management, a pharmacy benefits manager, and Novant Health, a healthcare delivery organization with 800 locations including 15 hospitals.
“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,” says Angela Yochem, executive vice president and chief transformation and digital officer, Novant Health. “Innovative tools like Zipline’s on-demand deliveries allow us to completely reimagine a fully remote patient care model. The potential impact of this latest launch is immeasurable, and we are extremely energized about our role in creating a blueprint for health care systems across the country.”
While many drone delivery projects work with traditional quadcopter drones, Zipline’s drones are fixed wing aircraft, making them much more efficient and able to fly farther. To get aloft without a mini-airport, they’re launched via a small catapult that can placed on a roof. Rather than landing to deliver cargo, they release a small parachute delivery system, lofting the payload to a waiting customer, and instead of requiring a runway to land on back at home base, they essentially run into an aerial arrestor wire at low speed, are caught, captured, and brought safely to rest for an attendant to restock and, if necessary, refuel.
The company says its drones have flown almost 24 million miles, making over 330,000 commercial deliveries of over 3.2 million products. Currently, the company makes one delivery somewhere every four minutes.
The company received FAA Part 135 Air Carrier Certification on June 20th, enabling deliveries as far away as 26 miles or 42 kilometers roundtrip.
“Zipline is now authorized to complete the longest range on-demand commercial drone deliveries in the U.S., with operations covering the largest area and greatest distance of any uncrewed commercial aircraft delivery system (UAS) in the country,” the company says.
Zipline is working with Walmart, Toyota in Japan, and nationally in Rwanda and Ghana, serving 2,000+ healthcare facilities.