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UPS is experimenting with drone delivery– adding to their fleet of trucks, planes, and trains. But don’t expect UPS drones to deliver your holiday packages this season. For now the package delivery company’s drone-powered off shoot UPS Flight Forward is experimenting with medical prescriptions only.

 UPS Flight Forward successful delivered their first prescription delivery on November 1st – delivering a medication from a CVS pharmacy in North Carolina to a patient’s home nearby. The drone went on to make a second successful drop to a second patient in the area.

 While the drone was sell-propelled – a remote operator monitored the flight in the case the drone ran into any issues or flew off course.  After the successful run; Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer stated, “We now have an opportunity to offer different drone delivery solutions, tailored to meet customer needs for speed and convenience.” CVS president Kevin Hourican added, “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.”

This will not be the last time CVS and UPS pair up to bring patients medication via drone. Hourican revealed, “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.” Price stated, “We’re delighted to build new services that will shatter preconceived notions of how, when and where goods can be delivered.”

UPS is not the only supply chain company who is experimenting with drone delivery services. Back in October FedEx Express launched its first successful drone delivery to Christiansburg, Virginia. The delivery was completed in part by Wing Aviation who collaborated with the supply chain giant. CEO of FedEx Express Don Colleran stated, ““Innovation has been part of the FedEx DNA since day one, and we are always looking for new and better ways to deliver the world to our customers’ doorsteps.”

Amazon is also expected to experiment with drone delivery as part of their Amazon Prime Air program in the next few months as is Uber.

Why is it taking so long to get drone delivery off the ground? It is not a question as to whether or not these supply chain companies have the technology to create the drones – it’s getting the correct permit from the United States government. The FAA’s Part 135 Standard certification is the highest certification that a supply chain company can receive in order to legally use drones as a delivery mechanism. To date UPS is the only company that has received this certificate with the stipulation that they can only use it for healthcare deliveries. The permit allows UPS to have an unlimited number of drones with an unlimited number of remote operators. Under the certification drones can fly at night and carry more than 55 pounds.

CEO of UPS, David Abney stated that by obtaining this permit, “….history is in the making, and we aren’t done yet.” He adds, ““Our technology is opening doors for UPS and solving problems in unique ways for our customers. We will soon announce other steps to build out our infrastructure, expand services for healthcare customers and put drones to new uses in the future.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 20 November 2019
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Danielle Loughnane

Danielle Loughnane earned her B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has currently been working in the data science field since 2015. She is the author of a comic book entitled, “The Superhighs” and wrote a blog from 2011-2015 about working in the restaurant industry called, "Sir I Think You've Had Too Much.” In her spare time she likes reading graphic novels and snuggling with her dogs.

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