Just one month after postal carrier UPS received a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) permit to test drones beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS), the company has successfully completed its first delivery of a medical prescription to a consumer’s home.
UPS's Flight Forward subsidiary completed the initial drone flight in cooperation with retail drug chain CVS Health Corp. This was followed up by another delivery of a medical prescription to a second customer in a retirement community in North Carolina.
The two successful drone flights signal the next step in an ongoing delivery program. More deliveries are set to occur in the coming months to test the viability of the technology as an alternative to drug pickups and traditional package delivery.
“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,” said Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy, in a statement. “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.”
UPS said it is the first company to receive an FAA permit to test drones BVLOS and the test deliveries are an important step for UPS Flight Forward to expand operations beyond its work on hospital campuses. The permit allows UPS Flight Forward to collect payment for drone deliveries and begins a path toward revenue generation.
The flights took place in Cary, North Carolina, where the drones flew autonomously but were monitored remotely in case humans needed to intervene. The drone flew about 20 ft over the destinations and lowered packages from a cable and winch to the ground. There, the CVS customer was able to pick it up.
UPS Flight Forward used Matternet’s M2 drone system and is working with the drone company on future drones. Matternet has completed more than 1,500 revenue-generating drone deliveries at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, since launching service in March.