UPS on Tuesday announced that its drone delivery subsidiary, UPS Flight Forward, has completed the first residential drone deliveries of prescription medications to consumers. The deliveries included a drone delivery from a CVS pharmacy directly to a consumer's home, and another delivery of prescription drugs to a different customer in a nearby retirement community.
UPS said the revenue-generating deliveries were conducted with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval and mark a significant step in the partnership between UPS and CVS. The two companies announced last month that they were teaming up to develop commercial drone delivery use cases including the transport of prescriptions and retail products from CVS stores to customers' homes.
The flights launched from a CVS store in Cary, North Carolina, and were flown autonomously. A remote operator was on hand to intervene if necessary. The drone hovered about 20 feet over the properties and slowly lowered the packages by a cable and a winch to the ground.
"We now have an opportunity to offer different drone delivery solutions, tailored to meet customer needs for speed and convenience," said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer. "Delivering prescriptions by drone directly to homes could greatly improve the patient experience for CVS customers. We're delighted to build new services that will shatter preconceived notions of how, when and where goods can be delivered."
Last month UPS announced that Flight Forward achieved the highly restricted Part 135 air carrier certification, which allows for approved UPS drones to fly over people, at night and out of the operator's line of sight. The certification, the highest level of FAA approval for a drone delivery operation, is a key step in the company's plan to integrate drone delivery into the broader UPS logistics network.
UPS has focused much of its drone efforts thus far on hospital campuses, building on the success of an ongoing test program in North Carolina. There, the company is using a Matternet M2 quadcopter to transport medical supplies throughout the WakeMed hospital campus. To date, UPS Flight Forward and Matternet have completed more than 1,500 revenue-generating drone deliveries.