Intermountain drone deliveries finally arrive in Utah

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Remember the Intermountain drone deliveries that drone delivery giant Zipline promised us last year? Just about a year later, and we finally have our first set of medical deliveries happening via drone in the Salt Lake City area.

Back in November 2021, Zipline announced plans to deliver prescriptions and other healthcare products to people’s homes in the Salt Lake City area through a partnership with Intermountain Healthcare, which is a Utah-based, not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, operating in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada.

At the time, Zipline said actual deliveries would launch by midyear. Perhaps October is considered midyear by some loose definitions, but 11 months after the public announcement and those Intermountain drone deliveries are here.

Zipline said that, as of Oct. 4, Intermountain Healthcare patients who live in eligible areas around Utah’s Salt Lake Valley can opt to having their prescriptions and medical products sent via drone to their yards. that’s after a few weeks of test flights, which have been ongoing in Utah as of several weeks ago.

Intermountain drone deliveries
Photo courtesy of Zipline.

How to participate in the Intermountain drone deliveries

To participate, you must be a patient with Intermountain Healthcare and live in the greater Salt Lake area. From there, visit Zipline’s Utah webpage here to sign up.

Here’s a look at the radius served for now:

Intermountain drone deliveries eligible radius Utah

But even living within the radius is not a guarantee of drone delivery service. “Zipline will evaluate whether the companies can deliver to someone’s home based on several factors, including their yard size, location, and surrounding airspace,” according to a statement from Zipline.

What’s more, Zipline said it would only start by serving local communities within a few miles of the Zipline distribution center, with more distribution centers, households, and community drop-off locations to come over time.

If you do live in an eligible home, expect to receive a floating package overhead, dropped from a drone that flies overhead in a package outfitted with a special parachute. The drones themselves, which have a wingspan of 10 feet and are 6 feet long, fly at about 60 miles per hour.

Typically they fly around 300-400 feet above ground level, though they descend to 60-80 feet above the ground when delivering a package.

Intermountain drone deliveries
Photo courtesy of Zipline.

What the Intermountain Healthcare drone deliveries mean for Zipline

While it took about a year to take off, Zipline says it plans to continue to let it grow over at least the next five years, with an ultimate goal of having the capability of delivering to more than one million people under the partnership.

And these are far from Zipline’s first medical-related drone deliveries. The company began more than five years ago operating primarily in rural parts of a few countries in Africa and is now considered the largest drone delivery company in the world.

Lately, Zipline has been ramping up its U.S. delivery efforts. Earlier this summer, Zipline announced a partnership with MultiCare Health System, a not-for-profit healthcare organization in Washington, where Zipline will deliver medical products throughout MultiCare’s network of facilities, including hospitals, laboratories and doctors’ offices, though Zipline has had it made it clear that those deliveries won’t start until 2024 at the earliest, and that’s pending regulatory approvals. At the end of June, Zipline began powering drone deliveries for three different, leading U.S. healthcare organizations in North Carolina: Novant Health, Magellan Rx Management, and Cardinal Health.

And here’s a fun fact: on average, Zipline makes a delivery once every four minutes.

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