UPS to use drones to deliver to Florida retirement community

29 April 2020
A UPS drone gets ready for a delivery of prescription meds from CVS to a consumer in Florida. Source: UPS

UPS is expanding its drone delivery service to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic to bring prescription medicine from a CVS pharmacy to The Villages, Florida, one of the largest U.S. retirement communities.

Many believe that drone delivery will play a major role in future pandemics once the infrastructure is in place to support such endeavors. However, some companies are already going ahead and using what infrastructure is already in place to help those fighting the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, UPS completed tests for drone delivery in conjunction with DroneUp and Workhorse Group to determine how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can assist medical professionals to accelerate the pace of testing for the virus and for the treatment of infected patients. Flytrex also launched a service this week to provide food, medicine and other essential goods for UAVs in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Drones potentially could deliver medicines and other goods to consumers faster than traditional methods and help in social distancing by reducing the number of people handling goods.

The service to The Villages, which will serve more than 135,000 senior residents, will use Matternet’s M2 drone system. The service will begin in early May under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA's) Part 107 rule with authority to operate through the pandemic and explore ongoing needs.

The first flights will be less than one half mile, delivering to a location near the retirement community where a ground vehicle will complete the delivery. The operation could expand deliveries from two additional CVS pharmacies in Florida.

“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, chief strategy and transformation officer at UPS.

Last year, UPS worked with the FAA on an approval for a license to test drones beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) and the company successfully completed its first deliveries in November by delivering a medical prescription to a consumer’s home.

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.

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