United Parcel Service’s new Flight Forward drone unit will soon start home prescription delivery from CVS Health Corp.
The service, which will debut in some US cities in the coming weeks, shows how the parcel delivery company plans to expand its drone business beyond hospital campuses.
“Flight Forward will work with new customers in other industries to design additional solutions for a wide array of last-mile and urgent delivery challenges,” UPS Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Scott Price said.
The Atlanta-based company won the US government’s first approval to operate a drone airline, leapfrogging rivals Amazon.com and Alphabet Wing and clearing the way for expansion of Flight Forward.
UPS, which owns 251 jet aircraft and charters nearly 300 more, is building its Flight Forward business at a time when US drone delivery is in its infancy. Regulations for operating unmanned vehicles in US airspace are not expected until 2021.
On Monday, Flight Forward and partner Matternet also announced a deal to deliver biological samples and other cargo on University of Utah Health hospital campuses. That will be similar to the service at North Carolina’s WakeMed Hospital, where Flight Forward operates about 10 flights per day, said Bala Ganesh, vice president of the advanced technology group at UPS.
Flight Forward also signed a hospital campus deal with healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente, UPS said.
In addition, the company said pharmaceutical distributor AmerisourceBergen will use Flight Forward drones to move pharmaceuticals, supplies and records to select US medical campuses it serves.
UPS rival FedEx last week delivered a residential package to a home in Christiansburg, Virginia, as part of a trial service with Alphabet’s Wing Aviation.
Dan Gagnon, vice president of global healthcare strategy at UPS, said Flight Forward “is not a one and done business model. We’re looking for scale and repetition.”