North Carolina Is First in Flight — Again

October 19, 2020

Novant Health’s pandemic response includes delivery of critical supplies by drone.

// By Jane Weber Brubaker //

What does a healthcare logistics company that’s had success distributing medical supplies to remote healthcare facilities in rural Africa have to offer large, technologically advanced, geographically distributed health systems in the U.S.?


Zipline, whose mission is “to provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies,” developed a system for delivery of vital healthcare products via UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, a.k.a. drones) to remote facilities in Rwanda beginning in 2016.

Keller Rinaudo, co-founder and CEO of Zipline

Keller Rinaudo, co-founder and CEO, Zipline

“Although Zipline started at a small scale, today we deliver about 65 percent of the national blood supply of Rwanda,” says Keller Rinaudo, co-founder and CEO of Zipline. Rinaudo was a keynote speaker at the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development virtual conference “Navigating a New Reality” in September.

Based on positive results in Rwanda, Zipline was approached by the Ministry of Health in Ghana. “We started with four distribution centers,” Rinaudo says. “Today, we serve about 20 million people in Ghana and about 2,000 hospitals and health facilities.” Zipline will add four more distribution centers in the country within the next 12 months, with the goal of achieving national scale.

News of the company’s success in Africa reached health systems in the U.S., and in January, Zipline inked its first U.S. contract with Novant Health in North Carolina to begin delivery of essential supplies between the health system’s warehouse and its facilities.

The original plan was to launch in October 2020, but the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and related challenges keeping clinical workers supplied with PPE — personal protective equipment — pushed back the launch by several months.

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