UPS and CVS Complete First Residential Drone Deliveries

Prescription medicine delivery follows 1,500 test flights on the Wakefield Hospital campus.

Package drone in front of CVS
North Carolina residents may soon see more of these drones delivering small packages.UPS/CVS photos

Cary, North Carolina, last week became ground zero for the first successful commercial test of a drone delivery service when an M2 drone operated by UPS and its partner drone systems developer Matternet delivered a prescription from a CVS pharmacy to a nearby residence and another later to a customer at a retirement community. The drones flew autonomously but were monitored by a remote operator who could intervene if necessary. The drone hovered about 20 feet over the properties and slowly lowered the packages by a cable and a winch to the ground.

Both deliveries were conducted with FAA approval and are part of a collaboration between UPS and CVS to develop a variety of drone delivery use cases, including business-to-consumer models. UPS earned its certification– the broadest available from the FAA–in late September to operate a drone airline under a Part 135 certification. It permits the company to collect payment for drone deliveries and to fly as many drones supported by as many operators as necessary to meet customer demand.

drone leaving package at a residence
A human operator monitors all deliveries just in case of a problem.UPS/CVS photos

UPSFF and Matternet have in the past completed more than 1,500 revenue-generating drone deliveries (nearly 8,000 samples) on the hospital campus at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina since launching service there in March 2019. UPSFF is building out its ground infrastructure to enable expansion to several industries in the future.