UPS partnerships bring drone delivery to reality
Four years ago, delivering pharmaceuticals by drone was a novel idea being tested by NASA to determine whether it could aid distribution of such products in hard to reach geographies.
This week, UPS brought the technology through to commercial fruition by signing two agreements with AmerisourceBergen and CVS Pharmacy to deliver pharmaceuticals to US hospitals and customers.
Announced on the same day, the deals will see UPS’ subsidiary, UPS Flight Forward, use its fleet of unmanned drones to transport medicine, supplies and records from distribution centers to hospitals, in the case of AmerisourceBergen; while the delivery system will allow CVS Pharmacy to distribute prescriptions and retail products to the homes of customers.
According to UPS, the drones are an additional option alongside traditional courier vehicles and provide a service that is able to avoid roadway delays, lower costs and increase medical distribution efficiency.
The company has already carried out 1,500 revenue-generating drone deliveries at the WakeMed Hospital in North Carolina since March 2019.
The two agreements arrive the same month that UPS was provided US government Part 135 Standard certification to operate a ‘drone airline’. To be expected from the agreements signed, the US government accreditation specifies that the drones can fly beyond the operator’s visual line of sight.
As a result of this certification, the company now has the permit to fly an “unlimited number of drones with an unlimited number of remote operators in command,” UPS said in a statement.
This will allow the company to scale its operations in order to ‘build out operations’ and look to expand to other customer use-cases.
The company's commercial drones: