UPS, CVS use drones in Florida to deliver medical prescriptions

The first drone deliveries will be carried half a mile from CVS, but the service will expand

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UPS has partnered with CVS to deliver prescription drugs via drone to The Villages retirement community in Florida, starting in May, UPS announced Monday.

Deliveries to the largest retirement community in the U.S. using Matternet's M2 drone system is the latest development in UPS' Flight Forward drone service, and it comes as people over 65 face the most severe risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.

"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," UPS Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Scott Price said in a statement.

He added that UPS "is committed to playing its part in fighting the spread of coronavirus," and its drone service can help support "healthcare customers and individuals with innovative solutions."

The first drone flights in The Villages will initially carry supplies half a mile from CVS to a location near The Villages and then delivered to homes via ground vehicle, but the companies plan to expand the service in time under FAA guidelines.

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"Now more than ever, it’s important that our customers have access to their prescriptions," CVS Vice President and COO Jon Roberts said in a statement. "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."

UPS has been successfully delivering critical medical supplies through its drone service, UPS Flight Forward, to hospital patients at Wake Forest University's main hospital, WakeMed, in Raleigh, North Carolina, for about a year.

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The Federal Aviation Administration in October approved UPS Flight Forward drone deliveries of CVS prescription medicine to customer homes in Cary, North Carolina, in October, and by Nov. 1, the companies had successfully completed their first two drone home deliveries.

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Other drone and delivery companies such as Amazon, FedEx and Alphabet's Wing, along with other pharmacies like Walgreens, are also teaming up to provide similar services.

Drones are also being used in Westport, Connecticut, to detect high temperatures, a symptom of COVID-19, and monitor social distancing guidelines, highlighting the many different ways drones can be used to help local communities during a pandemic.

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