Novant Health, a not-for-profit, integrated healthcare system headquartered in North Carolina, has launched America’s first emergency drone logistics operation by a hospital for its pandemic response.
The launch was made possible through a partnership with Zipline, the world’s only national scale, on-demand logistics service, which will provide drone flight services.
The FAA granted Novant Health a Part 107 waiver to begin operation, which is being launched as part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT’s) Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP).
The operation provides contactless distribution of personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies to Novant Health frontline medical teams in the Charlotte, North Carolina, metro area.
The operation helps position Novant Health, which operates 15 hospitals and nearly 700 locations in the southeastern United States, to adapt quickly to the evolving pandemic and could lead to innovative uses such as testing, drug trials, and vaccine distribution in the future.
Commenting, Angela Yochem, executive vice president and chief digital and technology officer at Novant Health, said: “Novant Health has long been at the forefront of leveraging technology to enhance how health care is delivered to our patients.”
Adding: “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 health care 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.”
Over the next two years, the partnership plans to expand beyond emergency operations in the Charlotte area to regular commercial operations, subject to approval under FAA Part 135 rules, to serve health facilities and, ultimately, patients’ homes across the state.
Novant Health and Zipline’s partnership seeks to create a next-generation model for health system logistics leveraging contactless drone deliveries.