Zipline Drones to Deliver Blood and Medical Supplies in US

ZiplineAs part of the White House’s “New Commitment to Accelerate the Safe Integration of Unmanned Systems,” San Francisco based drone startup Zipline will bring it’s drone delivery of medical supplies to the US, after successful tests in Rwanda.

The White House announcement says that they will support an initiative that explores the use of drone delivery to bring medical supplies to hard-to-reach areas: “Zipline International, with the support of Ellumen, ASD Healthcare, and the nonprofit Bloodworks Northwest, will demonstrate the viability of unmanned aircraft technology in disseminating critical care supplies to remote communities in the United States. The demonstrations will deliver lifesaving blood, medicine, and medical products to remote communities in the states of Maryland, Nevada, and Washington, including in Indian reservations and their surrounding communities, within six months of regulatory approval.”  The missions so far identified include transportation of supplies from Reno NV to Pyramid Lake Tribal Health Clinic and/or VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System, Nevada; and Bloodworks Northwest Bellingham Facility or Lummi Reservation to San Juan Islands, Washington.

Timing of the program depends upon FAA approval, but industry stakeholders hope that the White House blessing will move the project forward.  The Fact Sheet also states that the White House supports drone delivery startup Flirtey in their collaboration with nonprofit International Medical Corps. The partnership “will collaborate to develop lightweight, temperature-managed payload containers for medicines and vaccines for aerial delivery in remote and low-resource settings around the world… This partnership will move the humanitarian community one step closer to safe and effective real-time deliveries of lifesaving medical supplies.”

While Part 107 does not allow for drone flight beyond visual line of sight or over people, as many applications of drone delivery would require, the FAA has stated that they will introduce regulations to allow for flight near people within the year.  A recent increase in partnerships, such as the one announced with Google last week, may indicate that the US government is fast tracking the integration of drone delivery.


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