UPS launches medical drone transports, explores vaccine deliveries
- UPS, in collaboration with drone technology company Matternet, launched a logistics service to transport medical samples by autonomous drone to WakeMed's campus in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area. The Federal Aviation Administration and North Carolina Department of Transportation will oversee the program.
- UPS will use Matternet's M2 quadcopter, which is battery powered and can carry loads up to five pounds over distances up to 12.5 miles. Medical samples to WakeMed's campus are currently transported by courier car. "The addition of drone transport provides an option for on-demand and same-day delivery [and] the ability to avoid roadway delays," UPS said.
- Separately, UPS plans to start a service to ship vaccines to franchised stores, and a nurse contracted by the 3PL's clinical trial logistics department will deliver and administer the vaccine in a patient's home, Reuters reported.
Companies primarily compete on one of three primary business strategies:
- Operational excellence, where cost is continually driven out of operations.
- Product leadership, with a focus on the innovation and development of new ideas.
- Customer intimacy, focused on strong and creative relationships with customers and suppliers.
UPS is competing across all three strategies to meet threats from current and future competitors, while leveraging its expertise in logistics and managing the last mile.
UPS' foray into healthcare is a way to leverage its expertise in these three strategies. Healthcare is a fragmented industry ripe for efficiencies to lower costs and increase positive outcomes for patients. It is also an industry with reverence and respect. By associating with medicine, UPS separates itself from the competition and modifies its brand reputation in the process.
The vaccine project utilizes last-mile delivery expertise in a novel way. If UPS can deliver toothpaste and sweatshirts to your front door, it is not a stretch to deliver a nurse to give a shot to a customer inside the house. And since we can track a UPS package from shipping label inception to the exact minute and location of delivery, the tracking of medicine and medical procedures should be a layup for UPS, and for the insurance companies.
Perhaps in a few years, unmanned drones will be delivering those boxes of toothpaste and sweatshirts, or even hot coffee, to our front doors. If UPS becomes a market leader in delivering medical products via drone, it will give the company a leg up in that entire business segment and provide gravitas to the 3PL.
Who knows? In a few years that ambulance hurrying across town may be painted in that familiar brown color.