News • 03.08.2022

From the pharmacy to home – with a drone

Boots completes drone delivery of prescription medicines in UK first

A drone on an airfield
Source: Boots UK

Boots has become the first community pharmacy in the UK to transport prescription-only medicines by uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) – commonly known as drones. The leading 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.  

  • Boots is assessing the potential for using drones for the delivery of prescription medicines after completing a test flight from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight  
  • Test flight made Boots the first community pharmacy in the UK to transport prescription medicines by drone 
  • Boots is working with medical drone startup Apian to facilitate a trial

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.

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

“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: "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."

Technical data of the drones

The UAVs are electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the largest of which weigh 85kg, 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 St Mary’s Hospital’s helipad on the Isle of Wight. 

*The prescription medicines on the UAVs will include those that are regularly dispensed on the Isle of Wight.

Source: Boots UK

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