Prescription medicines delivered by drones

A subsidiary of UPS, one of the largest package delivery and supply chain management companies in the world, is claiming to be the first in the US to supply prescription medications using a drone.

The subsidiary, UPS Flight Forward, has just completed what it claims is a first for the US drone delivery market — delivering prescription medication directly to a customer’s home by drone. The company says it made its first successful delivery on 1 November by flying the medication from a pharmacy in North Carolina to a home, and then flying on to make a second delivery to a nearby retirement community.

When it arrived at the home where it was to deliver the first consignment, the drone hovered about six meters over the property and safely lowered the package using a cable. The hope is that such drone deliveries will make it easier for customers with limited mobility to get their medication in the future.

These are not the first drone deliveries that have been made in the US. Google offshoot Wing launched a drone delivery service of its own last month by delivering over-the-counter medicines and other health and wellness items. UPS has also been operating a drone delivery pilot at WakeMed Hospital in North Carolina since March where it says it has now made 1,500 deliveries. What is new is this flight is that it carried prescription medications directly to a patient’s home.

The reason for the relatively slow progress of drone deliveries has a lot to do with regulation, which prevents companies from flying drones outside of an operator’s direct line of sight or at night without proper FAA authorization.