UPS uses drone to deliver prescription drugs

UPS uses drone to deliver prescription drugs
© Greg Nash

UPS made history last week after it used a drone for the first time to deliver prescription drugs.

The company partnered with CVS to deliver drugs to two customers’ homes in Cary, N.C., using the M2 drone system by UPS partner and drone systems developer Matternet. UPS and CVS plan to use more drones for deliveries in the coming months “to bring to market the speed and convenience advantages” of the tools.

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“This drone delivery, the first of its kind in the industry, demonstrates what’s possible for our customers who can’t easily make it into our stores,” Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy, said in a statement Tuesday.

“CVS is exploring many types of delivery options for urban, suburban and rural markets. We see big potential in drone delivery in rural communities where life-saving medications are needed and consumers at times cannot conveniently access one of our stores.” 

“We now have an opportunity to offer different drone delivery solutions, tailored to meet customer needs for speed and convenience,” added Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer. “We’re delighted to build new services that will shatter preconceived notions of how, when and where goods can be delivered.” 

The drones used in last week’s deliveries flew autonomously but were monitored by a remote operator who could intervene if needed. The drone hovered about 20 feet over the ground and slowly lowered the medication to patients’ properties with a cable. 

UPS received approval in October from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly its drones commercially to deliver products to customers. It has also launched “UPS Flight Forward,” a division dedicated to autonomous drone delivery.

The company and Matternet have also made over 1,500 drone deliveries to WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, N.C. since March 2019.