Boots: Drones - the future of UK medical prescription supply

Boots - a leading health and beauty retailer in the UK - has become the first community pharmacy to transport prescription-only medicine supply via drones

Leading the way when it comes to advanced technology solutions in the health and beauty sector, Boots has become the first community pharmacy in the UK to supply its prescription-only medicines via uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) - drones. 

Flight testing in Portsmouth

Departing from the British Army’s Baker Barracks on Thorney Island near Portsmouth and arriving at St. Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight, Boots completed its test flight earlier in the month. The test flight saw the retailer collect and transport medicine to its pharmacies across the island which will then be dispensed to patients.

Working with Apian, Boots is exploring the future potential drone usage can have in the supply of medicines to those that need them in the country. 

The UAVs harnessed by Boots are electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircrafts. The largest weighs 85kg, with a wingspan of 5m and can carry up to 20kg of payload.   

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

“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.” 

Who is Apian?

Founded by a team of NHS doctors and ex-employees of Google, Apian is a medical drone startup committed to making people and the planet feel better. 

“We do this by building products and platforms that connect the healthcare industry with the drone industry to improve patients’ health outcomes and staff well-being,” says Apian.

"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,” added Max Coppin, Chief Operating Officer at Apian. 

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