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CVS and UPS Complete Their First Prescription Drone Delivery to Customers

The Nov. 1 flights included a delivery to a patient with limited mobility. Will the service boost much-needed healthcare access for rural communities?

UPS and CVS partner for first residential drone deliveries for prescription medicines.
UPS and CVS partner for first residential drone deliveries for prescription medicines.

You may recall recent news about the CVS-UPS partnership aiming to deliver prescriptions to patients’ homes by drone.

This week, UPS subsidiary UPS Flight Forward Inc.  (UPSFF) and CVS Health announced they had completed their first revenue-generating drone delivery of a medical prescription from a CVS pharmacy in Cary, NC, directly to a consumer’s home on Nov. 1. The flight, which used the Matternet M2 drone, was followed by a second delivery to a customer in a retirement community nearby.

Moving forward, the companies are working to develop other use cases, building on the success of UPSFF and Matternet’s 1,500 revenue-generating drone deliveries—representing nearly 8,000 samples—at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, NC, since Mar. 2019 (for previous coverage of the WakeMed operation, click here.)

“The drones flew autonomously but were monitored by a remote operator who could intervene if necessary,” reports UPS.

For patients with limited mobility, including one of the two recipients last week, the deliveries may offer relief from the burden of traveling to a store to pick up prescriptions. The drone was reported to have hovered approximately 20 feet over the properties, slowly lowering the packages by a cable and a winch to the ground.

“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,” said Kevin Hourican, President of CVS Pharmacy. “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.”  

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