Boots trials drones to deliver medical supplies

28 July 2022

Boots has become the first pharmacy in the UK to transport prescription medicines by drone.

The company collaborated with drone startup Apian to trial flying drugs to the Isle of Wight to assess the “future potential for drones in medicines delivery”.

Medicines were flown from Thorney Island near Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight and then distributed to pharmacies. 

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.”

The drones are able to carry up to 20kg of supplies, and have a wingspan of 5m.

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."

The development follows trials by the NHS to deliver chemotherapy drugs from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight. 

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said it was an “extraordinary development” because chemotherapy is difficult to transport due to its short shelf.

Drones can cut delivery times between mainland and the isle from around 4hrs to 30mins, while also saving fuel.

A 165-mile “drone superhighway” is being planned across the Midlands and the Southeast to transport medical goods including organs, test samples and blood between hospitals.

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