UPS expands drone delivery in US with CVS Pharmacy

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UPS subsidiary UPS Flight Forward and CVS Health Corporation subsidiary CVS Pharmacy have agreed to develop a variety of drone delivery use cases, including business-to-consumer operating models.

The programme will include delivery of prescriptions and retail products to the homes of CVS Pharmacy customers in the US from its retail stores, in addition to other potential use cases from its other business units. UPSFF is the only company approved to operate a Drone Airline by the FAA under a Part 135 Standard approval granted on 27 September.

UPS Flight Forward, which already delivers medical samples by drone at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, NC, is rapidly building out its ground and air infrastructure to meet the needs of what it says is a diverse customer base. UPS Flight Forward plans to deliver packages to consumers at their homes in the near future.

“As the country’s first fully-certified drone airline, UPS Flight Forward is rapidly building a robust customer base and a network of technology partners to galvanize our leadership in drone delivery,” says Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer.

“We will create new logistics and delivery solutions no one has ever considered. Previous industry thinking had been limited to only ground transportation technology. Now we’re thinking in three dimensions.”

Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy adds: “We’re always looking to improve convenience for customers through faster, lower-cost and more efficient delivery models.

“Given our focus on innovation, we’re excited to be the first retail health care company to explore drone delivery options with UPS.”

UPS Flight Forward has completed more than 1,500 revenue-generating drone deliveries at the WakeMed campus since March 2019.

UPS Flight Forward plans, in the future, to transport other items in many industries, and future tests together with CVS represent the first foray into retail business expansion for the UPS subsidiary.

UPS Flight Forward started by contributing to tests within the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP). That work centered on the business model for drone delivery on healthcare campuses. The company expects its residential delivery tests also will contribute to the regulatory framework in the future.

The company has tested drones for urgent commercial deliveries over water; funded and supported humanitarian deliveries in Africa; and tested non-urgent commercial residential delivery in rural areas with drones launched from a UPS package delivery car.

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