Michigan Medicine to Begin Drone Delivery of Prescriptions


In this screenshot from Zipline’s promotional video of its autonomous delivery system, the cargo hold is dropped by tether from the above drone. Once landed, the cargo hold releases the package and is drawn back to the drone.

Michigan Medicine has announced its plans to begin drone delivery of prescriptions to patients in Washtenaw County in 2024.

The delivery service will employ Zipline’s new platform that uses electric drones to provide quiet, fast, and precise autonomous delivery directly to homes. According to Zipline, the drones are designed to sound like wind rustling leaves. Drone delivery is expected to be seven times faster than traditional vehicles, completing ten-mile deliveries in about ten minutes. The delivery radius will include Dexter and Saline.

The partnership between Michigan Medicine and Zipline is a key strategy in expanding patient access to its specialty pharmacy services, which care for patients with complex and rare diseases. Michigan plans to more than double the number of prescriptions it fills annually.

“By deploying Zipline we are able to make deliveries faster than ever before, saving time for both patients and our medical workers, enabling faster, affordable pharmacy care that leads to better patient outcomes,” said Marschall S. Runge, CEO of Michigan Medicine, dean of the University of Michigan Medical School. ”We are always looking for innovative, sustainable improvements to serve our patients. We’re thrilled to soon provide the next frontier of care to our patients with Zipline.”

Zipline says its next generations drones (Zips) fly more than 300 feet above the ground. Upon arrival, it hovers quietly, drops the delivery down a tether, and moves to the correct location. It can leave a package on areas as small as a patio table or front steps. The new Zip has a ten-mile service radius while carrying a six to eight-pound payload.

Zipline drones have flown over 40 million miles for more than 540,000 deliveries. A system of 500 safety checks, including strategic route design and redundant flight critical systems, is used before each flight.

“Once live, our patients will be offered the option to receive their home delivery via drone, or continue receiving packages via traditional vehicles. Zipline’s technology is also smart enough to identify addresses as eligible or not based on trees, distance, and other potential real world challenges. We look forward to working with a company who is as committed to and innovative in their approach to serving the community’s health care needs as we are.” said Dana Habers, chief innovation officer for Michigan Medicine and chief operating officer for pharmacy.

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