Drones have long ceased to have a simple playful purpose: their capabilities benefit many other areas - especially logistics - an opportunity that is not being missed in the field of health either. Over short distances, unmanned aerial vehicles have proven their advantages in quickly moving organs between hospitals in the same city. By moving through the air, these devices avoid the heavy city traffic that ambulances do have to deal with.
The benefits of drones are not limited to the above, for example; their use also extends to the transport of medicine. In the United States, they are even used for home deliveries, a service which has been used by Walgreens and CVS pharmacy chains. Both work with the multinational courier companies such as Fedex and UPS, respectively. In the case of Walgreens, this new method of delivery is being developed in the state of Virginia. The catalogue of products that can be distributed by air is made up of around one hundred different kinds of medicine - all of which can be purchased without a prescription - in various categories such as allergies, baby care, cold and cough, pain and food supplements. The selection is based on items with the highest sales in the chain's physical pharmacies. As to delivery terms, Walgreens guarantees receipt of orders "in just a few minutes". The service is also offered to those users who do their shopping in the store but wish to receive it at home, a model similar to that of supermarkets.
Walgreens was a pioneer in opening this channel, although a few days later - in an attempt not to lose ground - so was its main competitor, CVS. "We are always looking to improve convenience for our customers through faster, lower cost and more efficient delivery models," said Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy.
The first experience in Spanish
Last November, Teruel witnessed the first test of drug delivery with drones in Spain.
Novaltia - a pharmaceutical distributor that operates mainly in Aragon and Vizcaya - successfully sent a device equipped with a specific container to store drugs from the provincial airport to a pharmacy in Gea de Albarracín, a town some twenty kilometres away. However, the aims and goals of the project are very different from those of the American companies, which use the drones for commercial purposes. In the case of Spain, it is only proposed to solve emergency situations in the supply of establishments located in areas of difficult access or in response to adverse weather scenarios; in no case, for the direct delivery of medicines to users. The legislation itself would not allow this use of unmanned apparatus at present.