VALLEY FORGE, Pa. — UPS announced on Tuesday its latest drone logistics partnership with wholesale pharmaceutical distributor AmerisourceBergen. The collaboration will deploy the UPS Flight Forward drone airline to transport certain pharmaceuticals, supplies and records to qualifying medical campuses served by AmerisourceBergen across the United States, and then expand its use to other sites of care.
This marks a major milestone for unmanned aviation in the United States. Currently, AmerisourceBergen utilizes courier vehicles to transport the majority of medical products from its distribution centers to health systems, community practices, independent pharmacies and alternative care settings. The addition of drone transportation provides an option for aerial delivery via UPS Flight Forward drone services enabling the ability to avoid roadway delays, increase medical distribution efficiency, lower costs and improve the patient experience with potentially life-saving benefits.
“We’re proud to introduce this groundbreaking drone logistics service to AmerisourceBergen’s distribution network,” says David Abney, UPS chairman and chief executive officer. “Efficient, timely delivery of critical medicines is paramount when patient health is at stake, and drone services can make a big difference when delivery time is a critical factor.”
AmerisourceBergen operates distribution services that rely on prompt daily deliveries to ensure that crucial medications efficiently and reliably reach their destination every day. More than 1,500 pharmaceutical manufacturers and tens of thousands of healthcare providers rely on AmerisourceBergen to help patients access the medications they need, when they need them. The company distributes medicines to 95 percent of hospitals across the country through a network of 27 distribution centers.
“Patient-centered care is at the core of our business,” says Steve Collis, chairman, president and chief executive officer at AmerisourceBergen. “This partnership gives us tremendous flexibility in meeting patient needs with emerging technology that will improve supply chain efficiencies in unique and innovative ways. Working with UPS to deliver innovation to our customers is consistent with our commitment to help solve challenges facing healthcare providers.”
The collaboration with AmerisourceBergen marks the latest expansion of UPS drone flights in support of healthcare logistics. In March, UPS and drone-manufacturer Matternet announced the first FAA-sanctioned use of a drone for routine flights under a contractual delivery agreement. UPS was granted permission in October by the FAA to operate commercial drone flights through its new business unit, UPS Flight Forward, Inc. This allows commercial drone flights beyond an operator’s visual line of sight and is an important distinction as UPS continues to build out its drone operations. UPS expects to rapidly scale the hospital campus drone delivery solution and to expand UPS Flight Forward services to other customer use-cases.
Enhancing the UPS Global Smart Logistics Network to support hospitals and other healthcare organizations remains a key element of the company’s transformation strategy. Healthcare and life science logistics is a priority segment for UPS, and the company continues to build new relationships and technologies to deliver better patient care with streamlined logistics and supply chain.