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Deliveries by drone are taking off in health care

A few days ago, The Economist had a nice article [paywall] about deliveries by drone, specifically in health care. It talks about how start-ups such as Zipline and Matternet are making steady progress in the $70bn global health care logistics market. Deliveries by drone, when carrying life-saving medication, make privacy, noise and risk concerns easier to overcome. Also, the high-value, small and lightweight medical packages make them ideal for delivery by drone. Here are some of the highlights of the article.

Health care offers attractive use case for deliveries by drone

The Economist reports:

Startups are making progress—mostly in health care, where they are vying to tap into a lucrative, $70bn global market in health­ care logistics. 

One of the best known is Zipline, based in San Francisco. It took off in Rwanda in 2016, where it is now a national on-demand medical drone network, delivering 150 medical products, mostly blood and vaccines, to hard-to-reach places.

Zipline is expanding into Ghana and, later this year, into North Carolina, an American state with many out-of-the-way rural medical facilities.

Drones can fall out of the sky, collide with other air traffic, create perceived privacy concerns and make a noise. All this is hard to justify when they are delivering a light bulb. When they carry life-saving medicines the calculation is different.

For one thing, medical parcels are lightweight but valuable, so drone costs would make up a relatively small portion of the final bill.

Lightweight electric drones are likely to be less expensive than car or motorcycle couriers, and faster. 

Matternet is, like Zipline, moving into North Carolina, where the local transport authority has championed drone delivery.

Zipline is expected next week to announce its plans for health-care deliveries directly to the consumer.

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Avatar for Haye Kesteloo Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at DroneDJ, where he covers all drone related news and writes product reviews. He also contributes to the other sites in the 9to5Mac group such as; 9to5Mac, 9to5Google, 9to5Toys and Electrek. Haye can be reached at or @hayekesteloo