First Drone Delivers Prescription Medications In U.S.


UPS and CVS made the first U.S. commercial drone deliveries of medical prescriptions from a CVS pharmacy directly to customers’ homes in North Carolina last Friday. Two deliveries—one to a private home and one to a retirement community—were successfully completed using an M2 drone developed by UPS partner Matternet. The autonomous flights were monitored by a remote operator.

“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 CVS Pharmacy President Kevin Hourican. “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.” 

As previously reported by AVweb, UPS subsidiary Flight Forward received FAA approval to operate commercial drone delivery vehicles under FAR Part 135 last September. Friday’s deliveries follow a similar trial in Canada last month, where prescription medications were delivered using a drone operating beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) to Saltspring Island off the coast of British Columbia. That delivery was made via a partnership between Canada Post and Indro Robotics.

Video: UPS
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Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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      • Expenses are relative.
        The burdened cost of providing an (electric?) vehicle plus the four drivers it takes to provide 24-7 coverage for ad-hoc deliveries, is not insubstantial.
        The count of deliveries per sortie is critical. Urgency plays a big roll in determining that.

        • Urgency? You don’t combine “urgent” and “prescription” because a new prescription means you’re already at a doctors office and so you already are using a vehicle. Pick it up at the pharmacy on your way home.

          CVS can ship refills in UPS or regular mail for home delivery, CVS does all the time. Insurance companies actually suggest regular mail 90 day supplies for long term prescriptions via mail rather than trips to a pharmacy.

          Only in very, very rare circumstances could I imagine a normal existing doctors prescription need “urgent” delivery so I’m not sure that there is a market for very expensive convenience delivery. I know that insurance companies are NOT going to pay for prescriptions delivered this way.

          • I know several home-confined patients for whom I have picked up and delivered prescription medications on an urgent basis.

            Not every such patient has a friendly local YARS. 😉

  1. “I know several home-confined patients for whom I have picked up and delivered prescription medications on an urgent basis.”

    Several does not make a market and, as you said, other means have sufficed.
    Since insurance will NOT pay for convenience it’s all a moot point :-/

  2. In my past life I was recognized as an “Idea man”. So here’s something to kinda kick around.

    I suggest that the packages should be autonomously darted to the front door and upon impact a text message be sent announcing its arrival followed by a constant and loud door ring chime or maybe like an ELT signal, but louder, until someone picks it up. Additionally, the package should not be allowed to be opened unless some kind of ID be confirmed, like a fingerprint or toeprint, DNA, et cetera. You can’t be too careful nowadays.

    I’m sure we can put something good here. I got a good feeling about this!