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UPS Plans to Deliver Prescriptions and More by Drone

Several(!) new UPS healthcare logistics initiatives include plans to create drone delivery services with AmerisourceBergen, CVS Health and Kaiser Permanente, as well as a new Healthcare and Life Sciences Unit and UPS Economy in the EU.

UPS' existing logistics program delivers medical samples via Matternet’s unmanned drone platform at the WakeMed hospital and campus in Raleigh, NC.
UPS' existing logistics program delivers medical samples via Matternet’s unmanned drone platform at the WakeMed hospital and campus in Raleigh, NC.

UPS has announced several new tech-enabled services and partnerships designed to support customer needs in the life sciences and e-commerce sectors. Here’s a breakdown of the (many) new initiatives.

Update on drone subsidiary UPS Flight Forward

Building on UPS’s hospital network-focused drone delivery program, UPS Flight Forward is expanding in scale to include new customers and future drone delivery plans.

“When we launched UPS Flight Forward, we said we would move quickly to scale this business – now the country’s first and only fully-certified drone airline – and that’s exactly what we are doing,” said UPS Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Scott Price. “We started with a hospital campus environment and are now expanding scale and use-cases. UPS Flight Forward will work with new customers in other industries to design additional solutions for a wide array of last-mile and urgent delivery challenges.”

  • The University of Utah: One new drone delivery service will support the University of Utah Health hospital campuses, in partnership with Matternet. The University of Utah campus program will involve drone transport of medical samples, instruments, supplies and documents via unmanned aerial vehicles on the medical campus, similar to UPS’s current partnership with WakeMed in Raleigh, NC. (See more detailed news here.)

  • CVS Health: UPS Flight Forward announced an agreement with CVS Health to develop a variety of drone delivery use cases for business-to consumer applications. The program will include evaluation of delivery of prescriptions and retail products to the homes of CVS customers from its retail stores. (For more detail, click here.)

  • AmerisourceBergen: UPS is also partnering with wholesale pharmaceutical distributor AmerisourceBergen, initially to deploy the drone airline to transport certain pharmaceuticals, supplies and records to qualifying medical campuses served by AmerisourceBergen across the United States, with plans to then expand its use to other sites of care. (More detail here.)

  • Kaiser Permanente: UPS Flight Forward will explore ways that drone delivery could support Kaiser Permanente, one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans, with transporting supplies between buildings at several medical campuses in its large-scale network. (See more about this effort here.)

Launch of priority handling service

For time-and temperature-sensitive packages, UPS Premier will provide its most comprehensive priority handling services for critical shipments using multiple next-generation sensor technologies. This is part of UPS’ effort to retrofit key parts of the company’s network with smart, IoT systems to track healthcare packages.

Additionally, the company reports that it is connecting all of its global healthcare and life sciences business under a single, dedicated UPS Healthcare and Life Sciences (HCLS) unit.

The new unit includes operations and over 5,000 personnel from Marken, Polar Speed, and all 114 UPS healthcare facilities, with a dedicated and healthcare-trained salesforce and customer support teams for customers across the global network.

UPS has also redesigned its Quality Management System (QMS) to reflect systems which exist today at many pharmaceutical companies. The QMS features a cloud-based electronic document management system, global standard operating procedures (SOPs), best-in-class validation processes and global reporting tools.

Broadening e-commerce services

The new UPS Digital Access Program is an initiative to make its e-commerce services even more broadly available through a series of strategic alliances and agreements.

The company has prioritized e-commerce growth by enhancing its network and services to enable faster deliveries, enhanced visibility and a broader range of delivery options. With the UPS Digital Access Program, UPS is establishing preferred relationships with leading digital platforms to easily offer discounted UPS shipping rates and other shipping and logistics solutions to their merchant customers.

Under this program, UPS launched its collaboration with to offer discounted shipping rates to its 740,000 e-commerce customers. offers a portfolio of Internet shipping software solutions under the brand names ShipStation, ShippingEasy, ShipWorks, and Endicia. These solutions help small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses run their shipping operations more smoothly and successfully.

The UPS Digital Access Program helps e-commerce platforms provide a comprehensive suite of related order management, fulfillment and delivery services that can be utilized to simplify logistics complexity. This is designed to give small and medium-sized businesses the opportunity to provide the same high-quality customer experience as large e-commerce companies.

UPS Economy expands in EU

UPS also announced that customers in Germany, France, and the Netherlands will soon gain access to UPS Economy. This service is designed to offer businesses an economical and efficient shipping option to reach customers in countries outside the European Union (EU).

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