No, this is not some kind of H.G. Wells sci-fi scene: Drones delivering drugs is now officially a thing.
UPS, in partnership with the pharmacy chain, CVS, successfully delivered medication to two customers, one a residential home and the other a retirement community, in Cary, N.C.
They used the M2 drone which was developed by Matternet. The success of the the first drone delivery means that UPS and CVS now plan to use drones more in the coming months, offering a possible lifeline to patients who live in rural areas or find it difficult to leave their homes due to certain medical conditions.
Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy, commented in a press release, “This drone delivery, the first of its kind in the industry, demonstrates what’s possible for our customers who can’t easily make it into our stores.”
He went on the say, “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.”
From cars to drones
The collaboration between UPS and Matternet began in March this year when they used drones to deliver blood and other lab samples from medical offices to a lab at WakeMed’s main hospital.
At the time UPS announced, “The UPS and Matternet program represents a major milestone for unmanned aviation in the United States. Currently, the majority of medical samples and specimens are transported across WakeMed’s expanding health system by courier cars. The addition of drone transport provides an option for on-demand and same-day delivery, the ability to avoid roadway delays, increase medical delivery efficiency, lower costs and improve the patient experience with potentially life-saving benefits.”
UPS further explained the process detailing how “the drones flew autonomously but were monitored by a remote operator who could 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. One of the packages was delivered to a CVS customer whose limited mobility makes it difficult to travel to a store to pick up a prescription.”
The program uses Matternet’s M2 quadcopter, which is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and can carry medical payloads weighing up to about 5 lbs. over distances of up to 12.5 miles.
UPS Flight Forward and Matternet have completed more than 1,500 revenue-generating drone deliveries at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, NC since launching service there in March 2019.