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27Mar 2019

UPS makes America's first revenue-generating drone delivery

UPS makes America's first revenue-generating drone delivery

  • UPS, in partnership with Matternet, makes the first revenue-generating drone delivery in the U.S. - this was not a demo or test run.
  • UPS will make daily drone runs to deliver life-saving medical samples to WakeMed’s Raleigh campus in North Carolina.
  • Drone delivery cuts the transport time from about ½  an hour to just over 3 minutes.

UPS, in collaboration with drone technology company Matternet, launched a logistics service to transport medical samples via drone to WakeMed's campus in the Raleigh, North Carolina. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) provided oversight.

The North Carolina proposal to deliver medical supplies was one of 210 applications selected to take part in the FAA Drone Integrated Pilot Program. The FAA IPP was a three-year effort launched to help expand the use of commercial drones in the U.S safely.

This new delivery service establishes UPS as the first regular, revenue-generating drone delivery business in the United States. For now, UPS is set to make fewer than ten drone deliveries a day around WakeMed but has plans to scale up in the future.

UPS and WakeMed say in a joint statement that drone transport can make potentially life-saving medicine more efficient by avoiding roadway delays while lowering the costs of sample deliveries. If successful, this drone delivery model could inspire other hospitals and medical groups to do the same, the companies added.

Both companies have experience in drone delivery services. In 2016, UPS partnered with GAVI and Zipline to deliver blood products to remote locations in Rwanda, while Matternet has used its drones to make 3,000 flights for healthcare groups in Switzerland.

NCDOT also has experience in drones, as it was the first state DOT to adopt drone technology for official use.

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