UPS to partner with CVS on drone delivery

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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UPS and CVS will evaluate drone-based delivery of prescriptions and retail products to customer homes.

The parcel delivery provider’s Flight Forward drone subsidiary and the drugstore retailer are considering home delivery of prescriptions and other items as part of a broader collaboration focused on developing a variety of drone delivery use cases for business-to consumer applications. 

Main CVS competitor Walgreens recently made the first-ever drone-based “store-to-door” retail delivery in partnership with Google subsidiary Wing Aviation and FedEx Express in Christianburg, Va. A customer received a pack of cough and cold items as part of a drone delivery pilot for health and wellness, food and beverage and convenience products (no prescription items are included in the pilot).

In addition, UPS Flight Forward is entering several business-to-business drone delivery partnerships in the healthcare vertical. These include a new drone delivery service in support of the University of Utah Health hospital campuses, in partnership with Matternet. The University of Utah campus program will involve drone deliveries of samples and other cargo, similar to a program originally introduced at WakeMed Hospital in North Carolina.

UPS is also partnering with wholesale pharmaceutical distributor AmerisourceBergen. The collaboration will initially deploy UPS Flight Forward drones to transport certain pharmaceuticals, supplies and records to qualifying medical campuses served by AmerisourceBergen across the U.S., with plans to then expand its use to other sites of care.

Additionally, UPS Flight Forward will soon develop drone delivery services in support of Kaiser Permanente, a provider of health care and not-for-profit health plans. The delivery applications will involve shipping healthcare shipments or other items on the company’s hospital campuses.

“We started with a hospital campus environment and are now expanding scale and use-cases,” said UPS chief strategy and transformation officer Scott Price. “UPS Flight Forward will work with new customers in other industries to design additional solutions for a wide array of last-mile and urgent delivery challenges.”

UPS is also launching several other shipping and e-commerce initiatives. These include:

•    A collaboration with to offer discounted shipping rates to its 740,000 e-commerce customers. offers a portfolio of Internet shipping software solutions under the brand names ShipStation, ShippingEasy, ShipWorks, and Endicia, aimed at small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses.

•    Using multiple next-generation sensor technologies, UPS Premier will provide the most comprehensive priority-handling services ever offered by UPS for time-and temperature-sensitive packages. It is part of a UPS undertaking to retrofit key parts of the company’s network with smart, Internet of Things (IoT) systems to track healthcare packages.

•    UPS is connecting all of its global healthcare and life sciences business under a single, dedicated UPS Healthcare and Life Sciences (HCLS) unit. The new unit includes operations and over 5,000 personnel from Marken, Polar Speed, and all 114 UPS healthcare facilities. The unit will have a dedicated and healthcare-trained salesforce and customer support teams for customers across the global network.

•    UPS has redesigned its quality management system (QMS) to reflect systems which exist today at many pharmaceutical companies. The QMS features a cloud-based electronic document management system, global standard operating procedures (SOPs), best-in-class validation processes, and global reporting tools.