Drone Deliveries Take Flight
Imagine a logistics network that isn’t constrained by typical delivery routes or timetables. Where service providers don’t have to wait to fill a truck, plane, or ship with enough volume to cover their costs, but rather can ship on demand. Where traffic delays no longer stand in the way of making critical deliveries on time.
With UPS Flight Forward™, one of the first Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-certified drone airlines, all of this is becoming reality.
UPS’s Autonomous Aviation History
UPS has been testing drones and other automation and robotics technologies for years, particularly in the healthcare space. Since 2016, we’ve partnered with organizations that use drones to deliver life-saving medical supplies in hard-to-reach locations in Rwanda and Ghana.
In 2017, we took a major leap in residential package delivery by testing a drone launched from the roof of a UPS delivery truck. And in 2019, we teamed up with drone manufacturer Matternet to launch a healthcare delivery service on the WakeMed Health & Hospitals campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was the first commercial daily drone service cleared by the FAA to transport lab specimens or medical equipment. Through the WakeMed program, a medical professional loads a secure drone container with a medical sample or specimen at one of WakeMed’s nearby facilities. The drone then flies along a predetermined flight path, creating transport efficiencies. In just eight months, UPS Flight Forward service completed more than 2,000 revenue-generating drone deliveries on the WakeMed campus. UPS and Matternet will use the learnings to consider how drones can be applied to improve transport services at other hospitals and medical facilities across the U.S.
Later in 2019, our drones achieved another milestone. UPS, in partnership with CVS Pharmacy, completed the first revenue-generating drone delivery of a medical prescription to a consumer’s home. We then made another delivery of a medical prescription to a second customer in a nearby retirement community. The flights offered a vision of drone delivery solutions that could soon become commonplace, providing a valuable service in communities where life-saving medications are needed and consumers at times cannot conveniently access a pharmacy.