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UPS, CVS partner to deliver Rx drugs via drones to big retirement community

Drone holding UPS package flying over CVS

CVS Health and a subsidiary of UPS are partnering to help seniors at the nation’s largest retirement community during the COVID-19 crisis.

Beginning in early May, UPS’ Flight Forward unit will use drones to deliver prescription medications from a CVS pharmacy to The Villages, the nation’s largest retirement community. Located in Central Florida and spanning some 32 square miles, it is home to more than 135,000 residents.

The new service, which will use Matternet’s M2 drone system, will operate under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rules, with authority to operate through the pandemic and explore ongoing needs as they arise after that period. The operation could expand to include deliveries from two additional CVS pharmacies in the area.

The first flights will be less than one-half mile and be delivered to a location near the retirement community. Initially, a ground vehicle will complete the delivery to the resident’s door.

The companies said that drone transport offers a fast delivery option for medicines that are time-sensitive while supporting social-distancing efforts. Drone delivery options provide individuals with an alternative to visiting a pharmacy. 

“Now more than ever, it’s important that our customers have access to their prescriptions,” said Jon Roberts, CVS Health executive vice president and COO. “In addition to our in-store pickup, free delivery services and drive-through pickup, this drone delivery service provides an innovative method to reach some of our customers.”

Last year, UPS and CVS last year announced plans to jointly explore the use of drone delivery. The companies successfully completed first drone deliveries of medical prescriptions from a CVS pharmacy in Cary, N.C., in November 2019.

“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. “UPS is committed to playing its part in fighting the spread of Coronavirus, and this is another way we can support our healthcare customers and individuals with innovative solutions.”

The first flights will be less than a half-mile and be delivered to a location near the retirement community. Initially, a ground vehicle will complete the delivery to the resident’s door.

Last year, UPS and Matternet initiated an ongoing revenue-generating drone delivery service at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, N.C., completing more than 3,700 flights to date under the FAA’s Part 107 rules. UPS also established UPS Flight Forward in June 2019, which later earned the Federal Aviation Administration’s Standard Part 135 Air Carrier certification to operate a drone air carrier in September 2019. The companies later initiated service at the University of California San Diego Health system, also under the FAA’s Part 107 rules.

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