UPS and CVS deliver prescriptions using commercial drones


Why it matters: UPS said one of the packages was delivered to a customer whose limited mobility makes it difficult to travel to the store to pick up their prescription. Indeed, it’s unique circumstances like these that make drone delivery all the more appealing.

UPS last month was granted permission by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate as a “drone airline,” effectively allowing it to conduct business nationwide using drones as delivery vehicles. UPS was the first company to be awarded this certification and predictably, it wasted little time in taking to the skies.

On Tuesday, UPS announced it recently conducted the first revenue-generating drone delivery of a prescription medication from a CVS pharmacy directly to a customer’s home. The delivery, and a subsequent delivery, took place on November 1. The flights originating from a CVS store in Cary, North Carolina, and flew to customers’ homes nearby where the Matternet-made M2 drone hovered about 20 feet above ground and lowered their payloads to the ground using a cable and a winch.

The drones flew autonomously although they were monitored remotely by a human operator who was ready to take over in the event of an emergency.

UPS has conducted more than 1,500 revenue-generating drone deliveries at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, since March but those were in a business to business setting. The work with CVS represents the first consumer-facing application of its drone delivery service.


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