Drugs by drones: CVS, UPS to partner for medication delivery test

CVS Health and UPS are teaming up to test a program that delivers prescription medications by drone in as little as 10 minutes after placing an order.

UPS Flight Forward, which already delivers medical samples by drone at WakeMed Hospital in North Carolina, made the announcement on Monday, just weeks after it received federal approval to start delivering packages via drones, according to a statement.

UPS said it had completed more than 1,500 drone deliveries at the WakeMed campus in Raleigh since March and "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 galvanize our leadership in drone delivery," UPS said in a statement. "We will create new logistics and delivery solutions no one has ever considered. Previous industry thinking had been limited to only ground transportation technology."

UPS said it wants to expand its drone delivery program but did not provide a timeline.

"The company 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," the statement said. "UPS Flight Forward plans, in the future, to transport other items in many industries, and future tests together with CVS represent the first foray into retail business expansion for the UPS subsidiary."

UPS's Flight Forward is the first program to earn the FAA's Part 135 Standard certification, giving it no limits in the "size or scope of operations," according UPS.

Last week, CVS rival Walgreens said it would offer a pilot drone delivery service in Christiansburg, Virginia, with Wing, Google's drone delivery company.

Through the program, Walgreens said it would deliver food and beverages, over-the-counter medications and other items within minutes, but it would not include prescriptions.

"With this pilot, Walgreens will be in a unique position to capitalize on the convenience of drone delivery if and when it should expand, with approximately 78 percent of the U.S. population living within five miles of a Walgreens store," Vish Sankaran, chief innovation officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., said in a statement.

ABC News' Catherine Thorbecke contributed to this report.
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