UPS has started making its first drone deliveries of medical prescriptions from CVS in the United States, marking a significant step forward for both companies as they work toward finding use cases for drone deliveries.
The deliveries took place on November 1 in Cary, NC, where a drone hauled the medicine from CVS to the homes of at least two customers. When the drone arrived at their houses, it hovered about 20 feet over the properties and slowly lowered the packages to the ground by a cable and a winch.
Although the drones fly autonomously, they are monitored by a remote operator who can take over if there’s a problem. Both packages were delivered by a Matternet M2 drone and UPS makes sure to mention that the deliveries were conducted with FAA approval.
Besides simply being the first drone delivery for UPS and CVS, UPS notes that it was specifically the first revenue-generating drone delivery of CVS prescriptions. Automating package deliveries is one of the first use cases for drones that has huge mass market potential, moving beyond today’s perception where drones are largely seen as toys, or as a way to take pictures of your town from 200 feet in the air.
“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.”
Going forward, UPS and CVS plan to continue developing their drone delivery program with the intent to launch efforts in urban, suburban, and rural markets in the coming months. The companies see “big potential” in drone deliveries for rural communities where people are further away from stores but still require life-saving medications.
Note that this isn’t UPS’ first-ever foray into drone deliveries. Since launching a service at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, NC in March 2019, UPS says it has completed more than 1,500 revenue-generating drone deliveries (nearly 8,000 samples).