Axios What's Next

Picture of a futuristic looking skyline.

Want your prescription drugs delivered by drone? The day may be coming, as Joann Muller writes.

  • Join us in April — virtually — for our first What's Next live event! Details below.

Today's Smart Brevity count: 999 words ... 4 minutes.

1 big thing: Medicines by drone

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Zipline, a leading drone operator, will begin delivering prescription medicines to patients' homes in a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, this year, helping usher in the long-anticipated era of routine drone drops, Joann reports.

Why it matters: Battery-operated drones could satisfy our demand for "instant delivery" in less than 15 minutes, while easing traffic congestion, improving safety and helping the environment.

The big picture: Drones routinely deliver medicine, food and sundries today in places like Australia, Finland and Africa.

  • But the revolution has been playing out in slow motion in the U.S. while the Federal Aviation Administration works on rules to govern drone safety in our increasingly crowded skies.
  • Drone delivery in the U.S. is poised to accelerate as companies like Zipline and Google-owned Wing push ahead with increasingly sophisticated trials with the FAA's blessing.

Driving the news: Zipline is set to announce today that it will partner with the pharmacy unit of Magellan Health to deliver prescriptions — including high-cost specialty medications — directly to patients' homes, Axios is first to report.

  • The trial, which awaits the FAA's nod, will take place in and around Kannapolis, North Carolina, where Zipline has a distribution center serving nearby hospitals.
  • Zipline recently started a delivery-by-drone pilot with Walmart, dropping packages of 4 pounds or less in customers' yards in rural Pea Ridge, Arkansas.

What they're saying: "It only feels weird and sci-fi in the United States," Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo tells Axios. "In other countries, this is normal."

  • Within a week of using drone delivery, the novelty wears off and people start taking the service for granted, he says: "Seven days to go from science fiction to entitlement!"

What's next: A big milestone will occur in a few months when Wing begins drone deliveries in Dallas, its first major metropolitan service area, starting with Walgreens.

  • "Launching there will show the regulator and the industry that drone delivery is ready to expand further," says Jonathan Bass, head of Wing marketing and communications. "In the next year, you’ll see drone delivery expand significantly."

Read the full story

2. Join us at the What's Next Summit in April

Image of a futuristic city block.

Image: Axios Visuals

Axios is bringing together key leaders and innovators at our inaugural What’s Next Summit on April 5, and we'd like to invite you to join us virtually.

We'll be leading newsmaking interviews on what's coming just around the corner in five high-stakes areas: Next Cities ... Work Shifts ... Electric Everything ... Financial Flux ... and Trending Tech.

Why it matters: You'll hear from some of the world’s most interesting minds on trends that are revolutionizing our future, including:

  • General Motors chair & CEO Mary Barra.
  • Mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser.
  • TIAA CEO & president Thasunda Brown Duckett.
  • Slack co-founder & CEO Stewart Butterfield.
  • NBCUniversal News Group chair Cesar Conde
  • New York Stock Exchange president Lynn Martin.
  • WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani.
  • CLEAR co-founder and CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker

Register here to receive the livestream links for mainstage sessions prior to the event.

3. Physical jobs go remote

Illustration of a warehouse worker casting a shadow of a robot

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With new technological advances, some machines can be operated from a distance — turning in-person jobs into remote ones, Erica Pandey writes.

What's happening: Many of these changing jobs are in the warehousing and transportation industry, Will Knight reports in Wired.

  • A company called Phantom Auto is developing tech that lets a driver control a forklift without sitting in it. That remote technology will be rolled out to a number of logistics companies later this year, Knight notes.
  • Ocado, a retail and tech company in the U.K., has picking robots that take items out of bins. The robot arms have remote human helpers to supervise their picking.

What to watch: For now, most of these machines still need their remote human operators or supervisors, but as they get smarter and more advanced, millions of jobs at warehouses could go from physical to remote to entirely automated.

Read the rest in Wired

4. Colorado Springs ballot measure is a test case for marijuana

a neon marijuana animated gif

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Colorado Springs, home to five military outposts and the religious right, is poised to serve as a national barometer for where conservatives stand on recreational marijuana sales, John Frank writes in Axios Denver (subscribe).

Driving the news: A citizen-led organization filed language this week for a November ballot measure that will ask residents to legalize retail cannabis sales and impose a 5% sales tax, with revenue going toward public safety, mental health and veterans programs.

Why it matters: Colorado Springs — the state's second-largest city — is the most prominent holdout against marijuana sales in the state known as the pot pioneer.

  • Given the community's reputation, cannabis advocates at the national and state levels tell Axios the measure is a broader test case for marijuana.
  • "I'll definitely be watching it," said Michael Correia at the National Cannabis Industry Association, which is pushing for federal legalization.

Between the lines: The effort comes 10 years after Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 to legalize marijuana and allow for retail sales, which began two years later in 2014.

  • Colorado Springs voters approved the measure by roughly 3,000 votes, but the language let local elected officials determine whether to permit retail sales. The city council decided against putting the question on the ballot in 2020.
  • So even though it's legal to use marijuana in Colorado Springs, residents must go elsewhere to buy it.

The big picture: Colorado hauled in $423.5 million in state tax revenue in 2021 from marijuana sales, another record year, according to figures released this month.

  • In 2020, Denver brought in $35 million in pot taxes.

Read the rest

5. Presidential pets: The quiz

Willow, the White House cat

Erin Scott/White House

Willow, the new First Cat (#FirstCat on Twitter), just joined the Biden family in the White House, making her the first cat to live there since 2009, when India, President George W. Bush’s cat, died, per AP.

  • Donald Trump was the first president since Truman to live without pets in the White House — as Jennifer wrote in 2016 — but presidential pets have a long and storied history.
  • Try your hand at this quiz on presidential pets that Jennifer lovingly (and laboriously) wrote for the New York Times in the run-up to the 2016 election.

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