Medical drone delivery
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Amazon’s Prime Air drone service has been slow to take off for the company, with limited operations in just two locales a whole decade after Amazon first started development of the program. Now, Prime Air is getting a small injection of activity, quite literally: This October, Amazon announced the launch of drone deliveries of medicines purchased through Amazon Pharmacy, its online prescription drug store.

Amazon said packages will be dropped by drone within 60 minutes of being ordered via Amazon Pharmacy. The first city for the service will be College Station, Texas.

Amazon Pharmacy currently covers around 500 medications, including those for flu, asthma and pneumonia; and (for now) the drone service will be free to use, Amazon said. (And despite the name “Prime” in its branding, it’s open to all customers, not just those paying for the company’s Prime membership.)

Amazon had signaled its plans to offer Pharmacy deliveries in College Station, but the company has declined to say where else it might expand, or when. College Station, along with Lockeford, California, are the only two markets where Prime Air drones have been rolled out so far (deliveries up to now have covered a limited set of non-Pharmacy products, including household products, office supplies and beauty items).

Markets where Amazon has launched same-day delivery for Pharmacy are Austin, Indianapolis, Miami, Phoenix and Seattle — so those might be some of the next markets for drone deliveries, too (pending regulatory clearance).

Amazon has been slowly adding new services into Pharmacy to make it more market-competitive — for example RxPass, launched earlier this year, lets customers get access to certain medications they take regularly for a $5 flat fee). Prime Air, on the other hand, has been a slow burner for the company.

Amazon’s drone delivery program, in the works since 2013, made its first delivery in 2016, in England. In the U.S., Amazon scored a win in 2020, when it got approval from the Federal Aviation Authority to trial services.

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Be sure to visit the BWU Technology Partnerships Initiative website to learn more about how our NEOFIX program drives economic growth, promotes policy and infrastructure to improve drone safety and efficiency in various industries, and ensures that drone technology is being used responsibly.