COVID-19 presents an opportunity to expand limited drone delivery test
UPS and CVS are teaming up to deliver prescription medicine via drone to residents of The Villages retirement community in Florida. The service, which will use Matternet’s M2 drones, is being conducted with authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The drone deliveries will begin in early May. The first flights will be less than half a mile and will be delivered to a pickup location near the retirement community. Initially, a UPS ground vehicle will complete the delivery to the resident’s door. The prescriptions will be delivered from one CVS store, with two additional stores joining at a later date.
UPS, which has been conducting limited drone delivery experiments in North Carolina, said it is expanding its drone service to help people who are sheltering in place due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Our new drone delivery service will help CVS provide safe and efficient deliveries of medicines to this large retirement community, enabling residents to receive medications without leaving their homes,” said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer, in a statement. “UPS is committed to playing its part in fighting COVID-19, and this is another way we can support our healthcare customers and individuals with innovative solutions.”
These aren’t the first drone deliveries that have been made in the US, nor are they even the first from UPS specifically. Google offshoot Wing launched a drone delivery service of its own last year in Virginia, which delivers over-the-counter medicines and other health and wellness items.
UPS received government approval to operate a “drone airline” last October. Since then, the logistics giant’s drone subsidiary, UPS Flight Forward, has conducted several thousand deliveries of prescriptions to retirement communities in North Carolina.
But the technology is still in its testing phase and not ready to scale significantly. Still, the COVD-19 pandemic has afforded both UPS and CVS an opportunity to show off their nascent skills in delivering small, ultralight packages short distances using drones.