Health and beauty retailer Boots claims to have become the first UK pharmacy to use uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to transport prescription medication.
The company is working on a trial with medical drone start-up Apian. The pair completed a test flight using a drone to deliver medicine from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight in July.
The flight path covered a journey from the British Army’s Baker Barracks on Thorney Island near Portsmouth and arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight. The medicines were collected by Boots and delivered to pharmacies around the island.
Boots claims to now be considering the future opportunities around drone-led medical deliveries.
Rich Corbridge, chief information officer at Boots, said: “Drones have huge potential in the delivery of medicines and we are the first community pharmacy in the UK to transport them in this way.
“An island location like the Isle of Wight seemed like a sensible place to start a trial of drones and their value to the delivery of medicines to more remote locations is very clear.
“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.”
The UAVs are electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the largest of which weigh 85kg (187lbs), have a wingspan of 5m (16.4ft) and can carry up to 20kg (44lbs).
The aircraft were developed by Skylift, the project’s drone operator partners. They will be based at the British Army’s Baker Barracks on Thorney Island and operated by professional UAV pilots.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has afforded Boots permission to use drones in designated airspace in the area.