Boots has become the first com­mu­ni­ty phar­ma­cy in the UK to deliv­er pre­scrip­tion med­i­cines by drone, reports a press release.

The retail­er flew med­i­cines from the British Army’s Bak­er Bar­racks on Thor­ney Island to St Mary’s Hos­pi­tal in New­port, Isle of Wight (IOW) three weeks ago. The med­i­cines were then col­lect­ed by a road vehi­cle and trans­port­ed to Boots phar­ma­cies across the island.

The com­pa­ny com­ment­ed that using the tech­nol­o­gy speed­ed up deliv­ery times while being more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly com­pared with the tra­di­tion­al fer­ry trans­porta­tion.

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

He con­tin­ued, “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.”

Ear­li­er this month the NHS announced it aims to deploy drones to fly chemother­a­py drugs to the IOW as part of a pilot scheme, cut­ting trans­port time from four hours to 30 min­utes.

It is hoped that using such tech­nol­o­gy may one day enable doc­tors to make same-day deliv­ery orders for drugs and med­ical equip­ment from any­where in the coun­try. Boots said it is work­ing with med­ical trans­porta­tion com­pa­ny Api­an to facil­i­tate the ship­ments.

Rich Cor­bridge

Max Cop­pin, Chief Oper­at­ing Offi­cer at Api­an, said, “We want to pre­pare now for the wider use of this tech­nol­o­gy in the future. For not only can drones deliv­er med­i­cines to hos­pi­tals, but also demon­strates they can help bring care clos­er to com­mu­ni­ties.”

The elec­tric-pow­ered eVTOL air­craft, the largest of which weighs 85kg, have a wingspan of 5 metres and can car­ry up to 20kg of pay­load. They were designed and devel­oped by Skylift, select­ed by Api­an to be the project’s drone oper­a­tor part­ners. The craft will be based at the British Army’s Bak­er Bar­racks on Thor­ney Island and flown by pro­fes­sion­al drone pilots. The pre­scrip­tion med­i­cines on the eVTOLs will include those that are reg­u­lar­ly dis­pensed on the IOW.

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

(Image: Dai­ly Mail)

Dur­ing the pan­dem­ic NHS Scot­land used Sky­ports drones to car­ry Covid-19 test sam­ples and test kits up to 40 miles across remote parts of the coun­try. The drone car­go also includ­ed med­i­cine, per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment (PPE) with each craft car­ry­ing up to 3kg of sup­plies.

The tri­al was fund­ed as part of a UKP1.1 mil­lion scheme from the UK Space Agency to cap­i­talise cut­ting-edge health­care ini­tia­tives.