Boots has become the first community pharmacy in the UK to transport prescription-only medicines using drones. The company is working with medical drone delivery startup Apian to facilitate a trial from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight.
Boots says deliveries are being conducted through electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the largest of which weighs 85 kg. The drones have a wingspan of 5 m and can carry up to 20 kg of payload. They have been designed and developed by Skylift, which was selected by Apian to be the project’s drone operator partners.
Rich Corbridge, chief information officer at Boots, explains that the pharmacy will be looking at how much time it can save, as well as how it can incorporate drones into its medicine supply chain to create economic efficiencies. Here’s Corbridge:
Drones have huge potential in the delivery of medicines and it is incredibly exciting to be 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.
Britain’s health service, NHS, agrees. It is also conducting a drone trial to deliver chemotherapy doses to cancer patients on the Isle of Wight. NHS estimates that drones will cut down the usual delivery time from four hours to 30 minutes. This will be a remarkable achievement since some chemotherapy doses have a short shelf life, and hence, are difficult to transport. In addition, each drone delivery will replace at least two car journeys and one hovercraft or ferry journey per delivery – saving carbon emissions and contributing to improving air quality for patients and the community.
Apian COO Max Coppin echoes these thoughts when he says:
Not only can drones deliver medicine to hospitals but we are particularly excited about our partnership with Boots as it demonstrates drones can also help bring care closer to communities. Whilst faster and more reliable than ground transportation they bring with them additional environmental benefits and offer a more sustainable solution for delivery.