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Walgreens, CVS take to the skies

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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. — On-demand delivery by drone took an important step forward this month when consumers in this southeastern Virginia town received purchases from Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) and FedEx that were delivered by an unmanned aircraft operated by Wing, an offshoot of Google’s parent company.

The October 18 trial marked the first scheduled e-commerce delivery via a drone in the United States, FedEx officials said.

Wing’s pilot program includes a collaboration with Walgreens, allowing program participants to order health and wellness products through Wing’s delivery app.

“Today is a great day for the future of consumer convenience,” said Vish Sankaran, chief innovation officer at Walgreens. “This industry-first drone delivery pilot with Wing expands our omnichannel offerings to provide customers the products they need wherever, whenever and however they may want them.”

Wing has partnered with nearby Virginia Tech to set up a base here, called a nest, from which deliveries can be made within about 10 minutes, the company said. The drone can carry packages weighing up to three pounds to homes within about 3 1/2 miles of the nest. Once the drone reaches its destination, the packages are lowered to the ground.

CVS Health, meanwhile, is partnering with United Parcel Service (UPS) to make limited drone deliveries.

The program will include delivery of prescription medications and consumer products to the homes of CVS Pharmacy customers from its retail stores, the companies announced this month.

UPS Flight Forward and its partner Matternet last week became the first drone delivery service to receive full certification from the Federal Aviation ­Administration.

“UPS Flight Forward is rapidly building a robust customer base and a network of technology partners to galvanize our leadership in drone delivery,” said UPS chief strategy and transformation officer Scott Price. “Previous thinking had been limited to only ground transportation technology. Now we’re thinking in three dimensions.”

Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy, said on-demand delivery by drone is consistent with the retailer’s goal of simplifying the shopping experience. “We’re always looking to improve convenience for customers through faster, lower-cost and more efficient delivery models.”


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