Medical Supplies Delivered Autonomously From the Sky

Near Charlotte, NC drones—large ones with 11-foot wingspan—fly over neighborhoods, an interstate highway and a reservoir as fast as 63 mph arriving at Huntersville Medical Center.

When the drone arrives its compartment door opens and a parachute equipped package drops gently to the pavement below. This happens about 10 times a day. And after dropping its package the drone returns to the hospital distribution center.

Novant Health operates 15 hospitals in the area. This includes Huntersville Medical Center. Novant has any number of delivery choices but decided to test drones as they believe it will prove useful in future heath crises.

As delivering medical supplies will be more challenging following natural disasters or political unrest the drones may offer solutions for delivering supplies to places conventional vehicles cannot reach.

The FAA gave Novant Health a temporary waiver so they and Zipline, the startup operating the drones, could fly drones over people and beyond the visual range of the person responsible for the drone. Zipline’s drones are autonomous but are monitored by a human being.

U.S. business have been slow adopters of drone delivery as needed regulation has yet to be set. The U.S. has more crowded and complex air space than places where drone delivery is legal.

Zipline has been around 2016 and began their journey in Ghana. As of now they say they have delivered more than 110,000 medical items.