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Cardinal Health reportedly to test drone delivery

Cardinal Health will launch a drone pilot to test the delivery of pills, inhalers and other items to pharmacies, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health is reportedly planning to test the use of drones to speed delivery of pills, inhalers and other items to U.S. pharmacies, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The pilot program with drone operator Zipline International would start next year outside Charlotte, N.C., pending approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the report.

Aerial drones with 11-ft. wingspans would carry loads of up to 4 lbs. about 10 miles from a Zipline distribution center in Kannapolis, N.C., to local pharmacies in 15 to 30 minutes. Cardinal declined to name the pharmacy company participating in the program.

[Read more: Walmart piloting on-demand drone delivery]

The program is Cardinal Health’s first foray into drone deliveries, which follows other pilots conducted by the United Parcel Service, Merck and Walmart's testing of drones for the domestic shipment of medical products and supplies.

The report noted that Cardinal Health would use drones as a way to respond to delays in restocking inventory and volatile last-minute shipping prices. 

Josh Dolan, Cardinal Health’s senior vice president of pharmaceutical operations, said drone delivery would allow the company to bypass road obstacles, such as natural disasters, and help replenish high-turnover items, and eventually will be useful for emergency situations in remote areas or when time is crucial, such as delivering antivenom for snake bites, according to the report. 

[Read more: Walmart, Zipline partner on health-and-wellness drone delivery]

Flights also would allow Cardinal Health to avoid fluctuations in prices for last-minute courier or helicopter deliveries. The company said it eventually aims to expand the program to more products and regions, which would also depend on FAA approvals, a spokesperson said.

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