Chemist’s drone drop-off of prescription drugs


A drone drop-off for prescription medicines has become a reality thanks to a successful test flight by UK pharmaceutical giant Boots.

Boots became the first community pharmacy in the UK to transport prescription-only medicines by unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs).

The company teamed up with medical drone start-up Apian to facilitate a trial.

It is now assessing the future potential for drones and how effective the technology can be integrated into the supply chain for medicines delivery in the future.

The flight departed from the British Army’s Baker Barracks on Thorney Island near Portsmouth and arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight, Boots said.

The medicines were then transported to pharmacies across the island, to be delivered to patients.

The drone is an electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, weighing up to 85kg, have a wingspan of 5m and can carry up to 20kg of cargo.

Rich Corbridge, Chief Information Officer at Boots, said drones have huge potential in the delivery of medicines. 

“In this trial, we will be looking at how much time we can save, as well as how we can incorporate drones into our medicines supply chain to create economic efficiencies too. We want to prepare now for the wider use of this technology in the future,” he said.  

Max Coppin, Chief Operating Officer at Apian, said: “Whilst faster and more reliable than ground transportation they bring with them additional environmental benefits and offer a more sustainable solution for delivery.”

Earlier last month, a new drone “super highway” for the transportation of medical supplies and green transportation was announced by the UK Government.

The network of drone superhighways will be built in the UK to link cities and towns throughout the midlands, south east and elsewhere to support the transport of medical goods and mail.

A number of high-profile trials are taking place globally with drone use.

In the US, delivery company FedEx is trialling a new type of drone delivery incorporating  an end-to-end autonomous hybrid-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aerial cargo system.

Amazon is confident of drone deliveries by the end of 2022, while Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and Walmart are conducting trials. 

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