Zipline Bringing Healthcare Drone Deliveries to Washington State

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Diving brief:

  • Zipline partners with nonprofit healthcare provider to launch Washington state’s first commercial drone deliveries, says an announcement last week.
  • Zipline will deliver urgent medical supplies such as lab samples, medications and test kits to MultiCare Health System hospitals, labs and doctor’s offices. Deliveries using the drone maker’s self-driving electric planes are expected to begin in 2024 in the Tacoma area, pending regulatory approvals.
  • The partnership aims “to create a faster, on-demand delivery model for MultiCare providers and improve the patient experience,” the statement said.

Overview of the dive:

While the drone takeover of e-commerce deliveries has yet to crystallize, the technology has carved out a niche for healthcare uses such as transporting COVID-19 vaccines. On-demand delivery of lightweight items over a short distance plays to the strengths of drones and the often urgent needs of healthcare providers and their patients.

Zipline is a leading face in healthcare-focused drone delivery, or what it calls “instant healthcare logistics.” Zipline has made more than 335,000 deliveries and flown more than 24 million miles with its aircraft, according to the release. It serves over 2,000 health facilities in Rwanda and Ghana alone.

Zipline’s shipment growth was expected to accelerate even before the announcement of the MultiCare deal. The company announced in June it launched on-demand drone delivery capabilities from the company’s distribution center in Kannapolis, North Carolina, for three healthcare organizations:

  • Cardinal Health uses Zipline to deliver pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to a local pharmacy to reduce the risk of stockouts and barriers to patient access.
  • Magellan Rx Management delivers prescription drugs directly to patients’ homes via Zipline.
  • Novant Health is providing specialty medications to its patients through Zipline, expanding their previous partnership to provide protective gear and medical supplies during the pandemic.

Commercial deliveries for these companies began June 22, marking the first Zipline deliveries since the Federal Aviation Administration. awarded it Part 135 certification June 17.

Part 135 Approval opened the door for Zipline to expand its service in the United States, as certification is required for drone deliveries to occur beyond the operator’s visual line of sight. Zipline can run routes up to 26 miles round trip under the certification.

“Initial operations under this certification will take place in North Carolina,” Zipline spokeswoman Lauren Wry said in an email. “From there, the company will work closely with the FAA to expand its Part 135 operations to more communities, including Tacoma.”

Zipline has also dipped its feet in the waters of the retail sector. In November, he launched an autonomous aircraft delivery service in northwest Arkansas with Walmart. The service, which began under an FAA Part 107 certificate, provides select health and wellness items and consumables from a Walmart neighborhood market in Pea Ridge, Arkansas.

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