Retirees in The Villages to get prescription drug deliveries by drone

Courtesy UPS

Senior citizens in the country’s largest retirement community will soon be getting some of their medications delivered by drones as part of a partnership between UPS and CVS.

The companies announced Monday that the delivery service would be available for residents of The Villages early next month as one way to help Florida’s vulnerable population stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

UPS Flight Forward will use Matternet’s M2 drone system to fly prescriptions to seniors there. The first flights will be less than one half-mile and provide deliveries to a location near the retirement community, the company said. 

A ground vehicle will complete the delivery to the resident’s door, at least initially.

“Our new drone delivery service will help CVS provide safe and efficient deliveries of medicines to this large retirement community, enabling residents to receive medications without leaving their homes,” Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer, said in a press release. 

The operation could expand to include deliveries from two additional CVS pharmacies in the area.


Drone delivery. Photo courtesy UPS.

The Villages, in central Florida’s Sumter County, is home to over 135,000 retirees. As of Monday, the county had 173 known COVID-19 cases and 12 people there had died from the virus.

Because of the unique elderly population, the University of Florida began conducting expanded testing early in the pandemic to study how the virus is transmitted. 

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Data from the state shows patients in Sumter County have a higher rate of hospitalization – 23% versus the average 16% – and the county’s mortality rate is 7% versus 4% for the state.

Company officials say the deliveries will help seniors follow social-distancing guidelines while also being more convenient for them.

“Now more than ever, it’s important that our customers have access to their prescriptions,” offered Jon Roberts, executive vice president and chief operating officer of CVS Health. 

This isn’t UPS’s first attempt at drone delivery. Last year, UPS and Matternet began using a drone service at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, N.C., completing more than 3,700 flights so far.