Delivery drones flying through the sky carrying emergency supplies of toilet paper may soon be a thing if CVS gets its way.
The retail pharmacy giant on Monday announced it has teamed up with shipping specialist UPS to develop a drone delivery service for customers.
The initiative involves UPS Flight Forward, a unit created by the shipping company in July 2019 aimed at the rapid scaling of drone delivery operations across various markets.
The CVS/UPS partnership wants to deliver prescription drugs and a range of retail products to the homes of CVS Pharmacy customers.
“Previous industry thinking had been limited to only ground transportation technology — now we’re thinking in three dimensions,” Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer, said in a release.
Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy, said his company is “always looking to improve convenience for customers through faster, lower-cost, and more efficient delivery models,” adding that it was pleased to be “the first retail health care company to explore drone delivery options with UPS.”
CVS and UPS made no mention of when it hopes to begin drone deliveries, or where they’ll take place. Much depends on getting the necessary clearances from the Federal Aviation Administration, which still has strict rules for commercial drone services, such as operating the flying machines within the pilot’s line of sight, away from people, and during daylight hours.
UPS is already testing a drone delivery service carrying medical samples between facilities at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. It also came up with a fascinating concept design that launches drones from the top of its delivery trucks, working alongside the driver to increase the rate of deliveries.
Looking beyond its current partnerships, UPS says it wants to use drones to transport “other items in many industries” as it seeks to make drone delivery a more important part of its business.
Wing’s drone deliveries
News of the CVS/UPS plan comes just days after another major player in drone delivery, Alphabet-owned Wing, announced it had started a trial service delivering over-the-counter medication, along with snacks and gifts, to customers in the town of Christiansburg, Virginia.
Wing, which teamed up with FedEx Express and Walgreens for the service, has also been running drone delivery trials in Australia and Europe.
Amazon is also working on a drone delivery platform, and earlier this year unveiled the latest design for the flying machine that it hopes will one day carry customers’ orders right to their front door.