Boots has become the first community pharmacy in the UK to transport prescription-only medicines by uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones.
The company is working on a trial with medical drone start-up Apian and 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, to be dispensed to prescription holders.
It is now assessing the future potential for drones in medicines delivery.
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.”
Max Coppin, chief operating officer at Apian, said: “Our partnership with Boots 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.“
The UAVs are electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the largest of which weigh85kg, have a wingspan of 5m and can carry up to 20kg 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’s 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