Residents in a Florida retirement community will soon be able to receive their prescriptions via drone.
CVS Health and UPS Flight Forward, a subsidiary of UPS, are expanding their partnership to transport medications during this time of social distancing.
Beginning in May, those living within The Villages retirement community can receive their medications via the Matternet’s M2 drone system. The first flights — which will be less than 0.5 mile — will be delivered to a location near the community, with a ground vehicle initially completing the delivery to the resident’s door.
There are over 135,000 residents in The Villages in Florida, which is spread across three countries and serves as the largest retirement community in the United States.
The service will continue through the pandemic with ongoing needs to be explored, according to UPS, and may expend to include deliveries from two additional CVS pharmacies in the area.
CVS and UPS first began exploring drone delivery last year, and the first successful deliveries were completed in November 2019 from a CVS pharmacy in Cary, NC.
UPS Flight Forward is also participating in tests with the U.S. government in Virginia to assist medical professionals in their efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Now more than ever, it’s important that our customers have access to their prescriptions,” said Jon Roberts, executive vice president and chief operating officer of CVS Health. “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.”
CVS, which operates over 9,900 locations, isn’t the only health retailer trialing drone delivery. Walgreens also began testing the service last year with Alphabet’s Wing delivery system.
Even before the advent of the health crisis, the innovative fulfillment service was expected to increase. Gartner forecast in December 2019 that shipment of enterprise drones used for retail fulfillment will grow to 122,000 by 2023, up from 12,900 last year.
The system, which enables batch picking of multiple orders at once, is designed so it can be scaled down to a small backroom micro-fulfillment center or scaled up for use in a dark store or even mass distribution center.