CVS Health bringing drone delivery to Florida retirement community

David Salazar
Managing Editor
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CVS Health and UPS Flight Forward are stepping up their efforts to help seniors during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Beginning in May, a Florida CVS Pharmacy will deliver prescription medicines via drones to The Villages, which is home to more than 135,000 residents. It is the largest retirement community in the United States. 

The companies said that drone transport offers a fast delivery option for medicines that are time sensitive while supporting social-distancing efforts. Drone delivery options provide individuals with a convenient alternative to visiting a pharmacy. Although currently focused on prescription delivery, the program offers potential to expand into front-end merchandise, possibly with a focus on the retailer's own brands. 

"Now more than ever, it’s important that our customers have access to their prescriptions,” said Jon Roberts, CVS Health executive vice president and COO. “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.”

The new service in The Villages in central Florida begins in early May under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rules, with authority to operate through the pandemic and explore ongoing needs as they arise after that period. The operation could expand to include deliveries from two additional CVS pharmacies in the area.

UPS and CVS last year announced plans to jointly explore the use of drone delivery. The companies successfully completed their first drone deliveries of medical prescriptions from a CVS pharmacy in Cary, N.C. in November 2019.

“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,” said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer. “UPS is committed to playing its part in fighting the spread of Coronavirus, and this is another way we can support our healthcare customers and individuals with innovative solutions.”

The first flights will be less than a half-mile and be delivered to a location near the retirement community. Initially, a ground vehicle will complete the delivery to the resident’s door.

Last year, UPS and Matternet initiated an ongoing revenue-generating drone delivery service at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, N.C., completing more than 3,700 flights to date under the FAA’s Part 107 rules. UPS also established UPS Flight Forward in June 2019, which later earned the Federal Aviation Administration’s Standard Part 135 Air Carrier certification to operate a drone air carrier in September 2019. The companies later initiated service at the University of California San Diego health system, also under the FAA’s Part 107 rules.