Drone Pandemic Response Team Begins Operations

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Novant Health Inc., in conjunction with Zipline, an on-demand long-range logistics service, say they’ve formed the first emergency drone logistics operation. The project will be part of the North Carolina hospital system’s pandemic response effort, according to a press release. Drones flying between health care facilities can easily transport emergency equipment and supplies in a contactless manner. 

“Novant Health has long been at the forefront of leveraging technology to enhance how health care is delivered to our patients,” said Angela Yochem, Novant Health’s executive VP and chief digital and technology officer. “The COVID-19 pandemic has tasked us with being even more nimble and innovative in how we solve complex challenges. Fast-tracking our medical drone transport capability is just one example of how we’re pioneering in the healthcare industry, which is known for being resistant to change. We are very grateful to the FAA and North Carolina’s DOT for their help to expedite the process during this unprecedented time.” 

Partnering with Zipline allows the company to use the experience it has gained ferrying medical supplies in Africa to the American healthcare system. “We’re likely in for a long-term fight against COVID-19. Using contactless drone logistics will be an important tool in that effort. The work underway here in North Carolina will provide the rest of the country with a blueprint for how to build the most resilient and responsive health care system possible,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo, praising the new relationship with Novant Health. 

The FAA has cleared specific flight paths, making the drone deliveries possible. Zipline drones can travel up to 100 miles, placing them in range of 30 Novant facilities. The flights will originate from the emergency drone fulfillment center adjacent to the Novant Health Logistics Center in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

“Hopefully, this project and ones like it can help ease the strain on our medical supply chains,” said the Secretary of Transportation in North Carolina, Eric Boyette. “We’re living through an unprecedented situation, and we’re going to need innovative solutions like this to get us through it.” 

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