UPS chief strategy and transformation officer Scott Price said it’s expected to be around 2021 before the FAA allows “full and open skies when it comes to drones as we would envision.”
“We are a formally-approved drone airline, but in the absence of a regulatory framework, we have to apply for waivers,” Price said.
The shipping giant's drone unit this year started delivering medical samples by drone within a hospital campus in Raleigh, N.C., and last month got FAA certification to operate as a "drone airline" and expand to other campuses.
On Monday, it announced partnerships with Kaiser Permanente and the University of Utah Health campus to transport medical items by drone between buildings at medical campuses, and a partnership with wholesale pharmaceutical distributor AmerisourceBergen to transport pharmaceuticals, supplies and records by drone from distribution centers to medical campuses.
UPS Flight Forward said it plans in the future to transport “other items in many industries.”
“We will create new logistics and delivery solutions no one has ever considered,” Price said in a statement.
The company also announced it is creating a new healthcare and life sciences unit that will include the company's 114 healthcare facilities and two healthcare-related businesses it acquired in recent years — Marken and Polar Speed.