UPS and CVS team up to develop medical drone deliveries right to your house

The project is just getting started, but could result in CVS stores doubling as drone delivery hubs.

- Ben Fox Rubin | CNET

The long-awaited dream of getting your toothpaste zipped to you in minutes via drone is one step closer in the US.

UPS and CVS on Monday said they're working together to develop drone deliveries of prescriptions and retail products from CVS stores to US homes. This partnership is the first foray into retail for UPS Flight Forward, the shipper's new subsidiary for drone operations. That subsidiary has so far focused on deliveries in and around hospital campuses.

Don't get too excited just yet about this new effort: The project is just getting off the ground with additional government waivers needed and timing still being hammered out, said UPS spokesman Kyle Peterson. Details on what real-world testing CVS and UPS will be doing together are currently sparse, and the companies didn't say where this exploratory service could be coming first.

UPS also said Monday it teamed up with three new health care organizations for drone deliveries: University of Utah, Kaiser Permanente and AmerisourceBergen.

UPS is part of a growing set of competitors working to bring more drone deliveries to the US, with Amazon, Google's parent company, DHL and others developing new services. These drones could cut delivery times to minutes instead of days. After building drones for years, Amazon is now piloting drones in the UK. Wing, owned by Google parent Alphabet, this year started delivering fresh food via drones in Australia.

Drone operations in the US are still heavily restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration, which requires most drones fly within an operator's visual line of sight.

Starting this March, UPS began making drone deliveries on WakeMed's flagship hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. These drones help shuttle lab samples back and forth between neighboring buildings and the central lab center. Currently, those samples can take three to four hours to arrive by ground couriers, but the drones cut that time down to minutes, UPS says, potentially saving doctors valuable time in getting lab results.

UPS said it's completed more than 1,500 drone deliveries at WakeMed.

Last month, the FAA granted UPS a Part 135 Standard certification, allowing the company to do the same kind of work it's doing at WakeMed at just about any other hospital campus in the US. The shipper now wants to expand this service to provide medical supplies and lab samples in and around hospitals.

To do that, the company said on Monday it's bringing its drone deliveries to the University of Utah hospital campus. UPS also said it's now exploring drone deliveries with health care provider Kaiser Permanente for its 39-hospital network. Lastly, pharmaceutical distributor AmerisourceBergen partnered with UPS to use its drones to deliver pharmaceuticals, supplies and records to medical campuses.

Original article at CNET, here.

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