Friday, December 9, 2022

Boots completes UK’s first drone delivery of prescription medicines

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Boosts announced that it has recently become the first community pharmacy in the UK to transport prescription-only medicines by uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones. The British health and beauty retailer has already completed a test flight transporting prescription-only medicines by drone from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight earlier this month.

The flight departed 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 transported to its pharmacies across the island, where they will be dispensed to patients with prescriptions for them. Boots worked with medical drone startup Apian to facilitate the test flight and is now assessing the future potential for drones in medicines delivery.

“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,” said Rich Corbridge, Chief Information Officer at Boots. “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.”

“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,” said Max Coppin, Chief Operating Officer at Apian.

Apian’s fleet of UAVs includes fixed-wing hybrid VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft used for long-range flights and multi-rotor drones that are easier to deploy and are suitable for shorter missions. Its largest drones have a wingspan of 5 meters (16.4 ft), weigh 85kg, and can carry up to 20 kg of payload. They were designed and developed by Skylift, who were selected by Apian to be the project’s drone operator partners. They will be based at the British Army’ Baker Barracks on Thorney Island and flown by professional drone pilots.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has granted permission for the UAVs to fly in segregated airspace between Baker Barracks on Thorney Island and St Mary’s Hospital’s helipad on the Isle of Wight.

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