KANNAPOLIS – Three of North Carolina’s healthcare organizations are now delivering medical products by drone flight.

Billed as an “on demand delivery system,” the provider of the drone operations is Zipline, operating out of a Kannapolis distribution center.

Each of Novant Health, Magellan Rx Management, and Cardinal Health is working with the company independently, with a “variety of products” available to be delivered from Zipline’s facility, the company shared in a statement.

“We imagine a future in which goods are transported nearly instantly,” said Keller Rinaudo, founder and CEO at Zipline, in the statement. “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.”

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper visited the facility earlier this month.

“North Carolina is first in flight, and Zipline’s work is taking us to new heights,” said Governor Cooper in the company’s statement.  “This innovative partnership will increase access to health care for our community.”

According to Zipline, deliveries began on June 22, with an initial 16 nautical mile flight.  That was the first delivery since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded Zipline Part 135 certification on June 17, the company said.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration called on Congress to expand authority for the federal government and local governments to counter nefarious use of drones across the country.  But Zipline is one of only four companies to receive the FAA’s Part 135 certification, which is one that enables a company to fly commercially beyond the visual line of sight.

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Another ‘first in flight’

Novant Health partnered with Zipline in 2020 as the first U.S. partner for the company’s emergency drone logistics program and pandemic response program.  According to the company’s statement, Zipline will now provide Novant Health a delivery system for specialty medications within a 7,800 square mile area.

“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 Angela Yochem, executive vice president and chief transformation and digital officer at Novant Health, in a statement.  “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.”

“”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,” said Yochem.  Yochem added that there is potential that this delivery system could enable Novant Health to “completely reimagine a fully remote patient care model.”

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