During these crazy pandemic times, many people are having their groceries delivered to their homes. Going to the market has become too risky in the wake of the Covid19. There is a reason why we are being told to stay home whenever possible and maintain social distancing. For myself, I take inventory of what I have and what I will need from the grocery store, and check daily for when my store has open delivery spots. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to plan so well when it came to renewing my monthly prescriptions. There were no longer delivery spots available for when I needed to have my medications renewed, and even if there were slots available, my medications didn’t meet the required dollar minimum for delivery. I was able to find a way around the situation without having to leave my home, and I am grateful that I was able to be so lucky. But for many in need of medications, obtaining them has become quite a challenge, one that CVS is about to start minimizing in Florida.
In the spring of 2019 shipping giant UPS partnered up with Matternet, the California based drone delivery company founded by Andreas Raptopoulos. Together they were awarded the first ever approval by the FAA for a drone delivery program in Raleigh, NC. The FAA had granted UPS a coveted Part 135 certification that allows drones to be operated like commercial aircraft, far beyond the limits of a standard Part 107 drone license. They began making drone deliveries of medications, medical tests, and samples throughout the WakeMed medical campuses in Raleigh. Prior to the drone deliveries, hospital staff would sometimes have to wait up to an hour for critical medical deliveries to be made between the campuses. Couriers would get stuck in traffic, jeopardizing the validity of the package being transported and the health of the patient awaiting the delivery. Not bound by ground traffic, the drones could complete these deliveries in a matter of minutes. The WakeMed campuses quickly became a model for how a last mile drone delivery program could be executed in the United States.
With the success of the WakeMed drone program, UPS and Matternet soon extended their partnership with CVS Pharmacy, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the country. In the fall of 2019, CVS announced that they would begin a drone delivery trial with UPS and Matternet in Cary, NC. However, unlike the program run at WakeMed, these deliveries would be made directly to a customer’s home. On November 1st, UPS and Matternet deployed two drones from a CVS store carrying medications for two customers, one of whom had mobility issues that made it difficult for them to get to the store. Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy said, “This drone delivery, the first of its kind in the industry, demonstrates what’s possible for our customers who can’t easily make it into our stores. CVS is exploring many types of delivery options for urban, suburban and rural markets. We see big potential in drone delivery in rural communities where life-saving medications are needed and consumers at times cannot conveniently access one of our stores.”
While further progression of the CVS drone program in Cary is still in the trial stage, it prompted CVS to employ the program in a Florida community where many of it’s customers have become home bound due to the coronavirus. The Villages in central Florida is home to over 135,000 residents, making it one of the largest retirement communities in the country. These individuals are particularly at risk to contracting COVID19. To ensure that their customers can stay home, maintain social distancing, but still receive their vital medications, CVS will begin delivering medications to the development by drone.
The elderly customers will not need to worry about scheduling a drop off in time with their grocery needs. They will not have to worry about coming in contact with anyone who could infect them. As Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer, said in a statement “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 is committed to playing its part in fighting COVID-19, and this is another way we can support our healthcare customers and individuals with innovative solutions.” For now, CVS is only offering drone delivery services at these two locations. But, seeing as to how quickly they expanded from a trial phase in North Carolina to a full scale operation in Florida, it could be possible that additional CVS Pharmacies will soon be deploying drones to customers.