Not-for-profit integrated healthcare system Novant Health has partnered with on-demand logistics service provider Zipline to launch America’s first emergency drone logistics operation.

The launch by a hospital follows after Novant Health secured Part 107 waiver to begin operation from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The waiver is launched as part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT’s) Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP).

Novant Health executive vice-president and chief digital and technology officer Angela Yochem said: “Novant Health has long been at the forefront of leveraging technology to enhance how healthcare is delivered to our patients.

“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.”

The emergency drone logistics operation will provide contactless distribution of personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies to Novant Health frontline medical teams in the metro Charlotte area in North Carolina.

In the next two years, the partnership also plans to expand its operation to regular commercial operations. It is subject to approval under FAA Part 135 rules.