Oct 18, 2023 - Health

Amazon launches drug delivery by drone

An Amazon drone taking off. Photo: Amazon.

Years after it first broached delivering drugs by drone, Amazon is poised to launch a service in College Station, Texas, that it says will airlift certain common medicines to homes within 60 minutes.

Why it matters: It's the latest move by the online retail giant to disrupt health care delivery — and a convenience that could help patients start treatments faster and adhere to prescriptions.

The big picture: Amazon has been testing out 30-minute drone delivery for other products as part of its Prime Air service, which launched in June 2022.

  • The company said Wednesday the College Station pilot will allow residents to pick and choose from 500 drugs delivered for free by drone, including treatments for common conditions like the flu, asthma and pneumonia.
  • Calsee Hendrickson, director of product and program management at Prime Air, said medicines were the first thing customers said they wanted delivered quickly via drone.

Yes, but: Amazon Pharmacy is entering an increasingly crowded space.

  • In 2019, UPS became the first company in the U.S. to receive Federal Aviation Administration approval to operate a commercial drone fleet and began testing their use with the likes of CVS Health and Kaiser Permanente.
  • Walmart has rolled out grocery delivery by drone in a limited number of regions.
  • Zipline and Alphabet-owned Wing — two of the world's leading drone delivery companies — are preparing for wide-scale U.S. deployment starting next year. They are already delivering in a handful of markets.

Amazon has said its goal is to deliver 500 million packages a year by drone in cities by the end of the decade.

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