It’s a bird, it’s a plane — it’s a drone?
CVS Health Corp. and the United Parcel Service (UPS) will deliver prescription medications by drone to a Florida retirement community starting in May, the companies announced in a press release Monday (April 27).
The first stop by the Matternet’s M2 drone system is The Villages in Central Florida. The facility is known as the largest U.S. retirement community with more than 135,000 residents.
Matternet is the California company that makes the flying objects for medical applications.
The drone transport promises an alternative to a pharmacy visit and a fast delivery option for time-sensitive medicines while supporting social distancing.
“Our new drone delivery service will help CVS provide safe and efficient deliveries of medicines to this large retirement community, enabling residents to receive medications without leaving their homes,” said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer, in the release. “UPS is committed to playing its part in fighting the spread of [the] coronavirus, and this is another way we can support our healthcare customers and individuals with innovative solutions.”
Last fall, the two companies teamed up to test drones for delivery and said they completed two successful flights that originated from a CVS in North Carolina. One flew to a customer’s home; the other to a retirement community. UPS said the drones hovered 20 feet above the properties and slowly lowered the packages by a cable and a winch.
“Now more than ever, it’s important that our customers have access to their prescriptions,” said Jon Roberts, chief operating officer of CVS Health, in the release. “In addition to our in-store pickup, free delivery services and drive through pickup, this drone delivery service provides an innovative method to reach some of our customers.”
The first flights will be less than one half mile and delivered to a location near the retirement community. Initially, a ground vehicle will complete the delivery to the resident’s door.
Service to The Villages has permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The agency's rules allow drones to operate through the pandemic, the companies said. The FAA has said it will explore ongoing needs for drones after COVID-19 ends.
Drone service could expand to include deliveries from two additional CVS pharmacies in the area, the companies said.
The number of The Villages' residents infected with the coronavirus was 76 over the weekend, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Florida does not release the names of the towns where COVID-19 deaths have occurred.