Drone provider Zipline partnered with UK healthcare logistics company Apian on a programme to deliver medical supplies for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), set to roll out by September 2024.

In a joint statement, the organisations noted the collaboration will target the provision of timely access to medical services including prescriptions, wound care and “other frequently needed” products via on-demand electronic, autonomous drones.  

In partnership with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Zipline will “centralise” the inventory of products and deliver them to hospitals and regional healthcare facilities at the initial stage of the programme.

The initiative ultimately aims to serve more than 30 facilities to reduce the industry’s reliance on “expensive last-minute logistics”.

Apian will provide a digital platform which integrates the management of healthcare and aviation logistics, allowing the NHS to easily place orders and have them delivered through Zipline’s services.

CEO and co-founder of Zipline Keller Cliffton touted the sustainability benefits of drones, stating use of gas vehicles in logistics is “slow, expensive and bad for the environment”. 

“This service will be delivered at a fraction of the cost of the existing solution and will help drive financial savings to the NHS in the longer term,” he added. 

Zipline claims it currently completes a delivery to a customer every 70 seconds. It has flown more than 60 million commercial miles to deliver medical services since being founded in 2014.

The company will also establish an operational hub close to a specialist emergency care in Northumbria to aid the programme.