What’s that in the air? A bird? A plane? And why does it have your cough medicine? It’s no superman. It’s a delivery drone!
On November 1st in North Carolina, UPS used a drone to deliver two prescription medicines from a CVS pharmacy to a customer’s home and a retirement community.
This is not the first drone delivery. Wing, a company developing drone delivery, launched drones with over-the-counter medicine and health items last month. UPS itself operates a drone delivery service at WakeMed Hospital in North Carolina.
But this is the first time drones have been used for prescription medicines.
The Future is Here
In general, all delivery drones lift up to five pounds and take online orders. But different companies design different drones to fit the company’s services.
Uber drones are far by the slowest, but their purpose isn’t to deliver far distance; the drones bring deliveries to the Uber drivers, who leave it at the customer’s location. UPS and Wing drones, on the other hand, are probably closer to what you imagine when hearing the phrase “delivery drone.”
Wing drones are fit with propellers that allow them to fly longer with less fuel. Did you know that they can reach speeds of 70 mph! These drones have the customer’s package attached to them by the warehouse workers. Then, using a GPS, the drones navigate the city to find a route to the customers. And in case anything goes wrong, a remote operator monitors the drone’s path.
Pros And Cons
Drone delivery wouldn’t just be convenient–it could save lives. An earlier trial done in October had drones with blood samples flying from the main hospital to a nearby lab. Drones can avoid traffic and access areas vehicles cannot reach. This means drones are ideal for transporting urgent medical supplies to crowded or rural areas. They can also deliver prescription medications to people with disabilities.
However, drone delivery still comes with disadvantages. One of the setbacks stems from regulations; without proper authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), operators cannot let drones fly during the night, or out of sight. UPS and Wing have FAA approval, but there are also challenges in the delivery itself such as finding a place for drones to land, reducing noise pollution, and preventing drones from colliding which each other in mid-air. Engineers also face outside factors, such as hacking and sabotaging of the drones.
While drones definitely won’t become Santa Claus any time soon, the prospect of widespread drone delivery is closer than ever before, as more companies–even Amazon–jump on the drone bandwagon. If drone delivery comes to your city, what will you order?
Sources: NPR, TheVerge, Fox