Using drones to deliver medical packages: A collaboration between a governmental agency and for-profit companies

Using drones to deliver medical packages: A collaboration between a governmental agency and for-profit companies

November 8, 20193 min read

At first glance, it just seems like an obvious next step as online retail and same day delivery are pushing forward at lightening speeds.


But recently, companies like UPS, CVS and WakeMed are exploring the idea of drugs and other health related items being delivered by drone.


An M2 drone developed by UPS partner Matternet made the deliveries.

The drone flew autonomously but was monitored by a remote operator who could intervene if needed.

In each case, it hovered about 20 feet above the delivery destination and lowered its package to the ground using a winch and cable.

The deliveries mark an expansion of UPS' partnership with Matternet, established in March to deliver medical samples using unmanned drones at WakeMed's flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The partnership has logged more than 1,500 drone deliveries at WakeMed so far.

UPS subsidiary UPS Flight Forward (UPSFF) plans to build out its ground infrastructure to expand to other industries.

"UPS is exploring and developing drone delivery in various industries, including some that need drone delivery to homes," said company spokesperson Kyle Peterson.

The residential deliveries also represent an expansion of UPS' partnership with CVS. UPS began setting up package pickup and return locations in CVS stores nationwide this summer.

The two are collaborating to develop drone delivery options, and UPS plans to expand drone deliveries beyond healthcare facilities. November 08 - TechNewsWorld


It’s fast, and convenient – but is it right?

Morvarid Rahmani has these findings that relate to the newest drone capabilities and approval to move forward from the FAA:

  • It is exciting to hear about the FAA approval of using drones for delivering medical packages.
  • Using drones to deliver medical packages can give rural communities access to products and medical supplies, which they would not be able to access otherwise. This delivery model is a way of incorporating social concerns and conditions of underserved populations into business practices.
  • ·Successful implementation of inclusive business practices requires collaboration of for-profit firms with the public sector, civil society organizations, and communities. Using drones to deliver medial packages is a great example of collaboration between a governmental agency and for-profit companies, which is toward the dual goals of promoting efficiency and inclusion.
  • Technology-driven innovations such as delivery drones or driverless vehicles not only facilitate last-mile delivery, they help with the inclusion of new sets of “customers”, especially those in remote locations or rural areas with poor infrastructure.
  • Delivery drones are results of “technology push,” i.e., the solution came prior to the identification of the problem. These technologies enable inclusive retailing and distribution for large (excluded) communities all over the world.

We know other retail giants (Amazon, Walmart, etc.) are going to use drones in the future but are they eyeing this option too or do they already have a plan ready?

  • Do the risks outweigh the reward when it comes to safety and ensuring the proper prescription reaches the right patient? 
  • Is there enough oversight to ensure that criminal elements or corruption are kept at bay?
  • Who is liable for the delivery?
  • Or, is this just part of our evolving world that is coming and that it needs to be regulated by accepted?


There are a lot of questions about the technological advancement of drones in supply chain – if you are a journalist covering this topic – let us help with your coverage.


Morvarid Rahmani is an Assistant Professor of Operations Management at Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech. She is an expert in the areas of research is on collaboration in work processes such as new product development, management/IT consulting, and education. Dr. Rahmani is available to speak with media regarding this topic – simple click on her icon to arrange an interview.

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