CVS makes history with drone prescription delivery

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CVS makes history with drone prescription delivery

By Dan Berthiaume - 11/06/2019
CVS drone

CVS Health Corp. is achieving its own milestone in the growing world of on-demand drone deliveries.

Following Walgreens’ historic trial of “store to door” drone-based consumer delivery launched in October, CVS Pharmacy has completed the first revenue-generating drone delivery of a medical prescription from one of its stores directly to a consumer’s home in Cary, N.C. This was followed by another delivery of a medical prescription to a second customer in a nearby retirement community. 

The flights launched from a CVS store in Cary and flew to CVS customers’ homes. The drones flew autonomously but were monitored by a remote operator who could intervene if necessary. The drone hovered about 20 ft. 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 deliveries are part of a recently announced collaboration between CVS and UPS to develop a variety of drone delivery use cases, including business-to-consumer operating models. Both flights occurred on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in conjunction with UPS subsidiary UPS Flight Forward Inc. (UPSFF) and using the M2 drone system by UPS partner and drone systems developer Matternet.

The companies plan ongoing drone delivery program development in the coming months. The recent prescription delivery flights occurred with FAA approval to conduct a residential drone delivery and according to FAA regulations.

“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. “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.”  

UPSFF was the first company approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate a drone airline under a Part 135 Standard certification. UPS earned its certification, the broadest available from the FAA, in late September 2019. It permits the company to collect payment for drone deliveries and to fly as many drones supported by as many operators as necessary to meet customer demand. 

“We now have an opportunity to offer different drone delivery solutions, tailored to meet customer needs for speed and convenience,” said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer. “Delivering prescriptions by drone directly to homes could greatly improve the patient experience for CVS customers. We’re delighted to build new services that will shatter preconceived notions of how, when and where goods can be delivered.”