Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

UPS develops drone delivery use cases with CVS Pharmacy

Steve Rogerson
October 30, 2019

UPS Flight Forward and Rhode-Island-based CVS Pharmacy have agreed to develop a variety of drone delivery use cases, including business-to-consumer operating models.
The programme will include delivery of prescriptions and retail products to the homes of CVS Pharmacy customers from its retail stores, in addition to other potential use cases from its other business units. UPS is approved to operate a drone airline by the FAA under approval granted in September.
UPS, which already delivers medical samples by drone at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, is rapidly building out its ground and air infrastructure to meet the needs of a diverse customer base. UPS plans to deliver packages to consumers at their homes in the near future.
“As the country’s first fully-certified drone airline, UPS Flight Forward is rapidly building a robust customer base and a network of technology partners to galvanise our leadership in drone delivery,” said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer. “We will create new logistics and delivery solutions no one has ever considered. Previous industry thinking had been limited to only ground transportation technology. Now we’re thinking in three dimensions.”
UPS Flight Forward has received the US government’s first full part 135 standard certification to operate a drone airline. The certification is the highest level the US FAA grants a drone delivery company. It permits the company to fly as many drones supported by as many operators as necessary to meet customer demand.  
“We’re always looking to improve convenience for customers through faster, lower-cost and more efficient delivery models,” said Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy. “Given our focus on innovation, we’re excited to be the first retail health care company to explore drone delivery options with UPS.”
UPS has completed more than 1500 revenue-generating drone deliveries at the WakeMed campus since March 2019. In the future, it plans to transport other items in many industries, and future tests with CVS represent the first foray into retail business expansion for the UPS subsidiary.
UPS Flight Forward started by contributing to tests within the FAA’s UAS integration pilot programme. That work centred on the business model for drone delivery on healthcare campuses. The company expects its residential delivery tests also will contribute to the regulatory framework in the future.
UPS has tested drones for urgent commercial deliveries over water; funded and supported humanitarian deliveries in Africa; and tested non-urgent commercial residential delivery in rural areas with drones launched from a UPS package delivery car.
UPS in Canada has announced the My Choice for business platform, a visibility and tracking offering designed for small and medium-sized businesses. Features include an internet-based tracking dashboard; delivery notifications, including day-before and day-of delivery notifications; and estimated time of delivery within two, three and four hour windows for the majority of Canadian postal codes.