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Upstate Outpatient Pharmacy takes health care to the sky with home drone delivery service

In a groundbreaking move towards enhancing patient convenience and embracing cutting-edge technology, Upstate Medical University’s Outpatient Pharmacy has introduced a drone-delivered prescription service for direct home patient delivery at select locations.

Upstate’s Outpatient Pharmacy and Air Upstate (Upstate’s drone team) are among the first in the nation to offer drone delivery of prescription medications directly to patients' homes. This service will redefine the patient experience, ensuring that healthcare becomes more accessible and efficient, officials say.

A test run of a drone-delivered prescription to a residence occurred earlier this month. At present, about 150 individuals who live within a quarter mile of the Outpatient Pharmacy, 5000 West Seneca Turnpike are eligible to get their prescriptions delivered by drone.

In 2023, Upstate began delivering medications via drone from its Outpatient Pharmacy on E. Seneca Turnpike to Upstate Community Hospital, located across the street. Air Upstate, in partnership with Causey Aviation Unmanned, has conducted more than 900 deliveries between the two locations. The home delivery pilot program expands on this initiative, adding additional benefits that directly impact Central New York and its community.

"As we introduce the concept of drone prescription delivery in Central New York, we are not only embracing innovation but also extending a compassionate hand to our most vulnerable patients,” said Eric Balotin, RPh, Upstate director of retail and specialty pharmacy services.

“This service expands our toolkit of delivery options that ensure patients receive their medications in a timely manner by mail, personal delivery, in-person pickup and now, by drone,” Balotin said. “We believe that infusing cutting-edge technology with a commitment to improving the lives of those in need is the future of healthcare”

The introduction of Upstate’s drone delivery service to select locations near Upstate Community Hospital signals a shift in the patient experience. Through this service, prescribed medications are sent directly from the pharmacy and delivered to a dedicated location on the patient's property. This process not only saves time but also alleviates the effort involved in physically visiting a pharmacy.

“I am excited to witness the successful integration of drone technology into our prescription delivery system,” said Mark Zeman, Upstate chief information officer. “This innovative approach not only improves the efficiency and convenience of our services but also underscores our commitment to embracing cutting-edge solutions in the healthcare sector. The introduction of prescription drone delivery is a testament to our commitment of removing barriers to healthcare access while improving efficiency and sustainability. Our state-of-the-art drones symbolize this commitment in tangible form,”

Upstate’s drones, beyond their efficiency, are also environmentally responsible, officials say. The drones prioritize energy efficiency, ensuring minimal carbon emissions during each delivery all while adhering to strict safety protocols to protect both the public and Upstate’s pharmacy customers.

Drone delivery by air is a safe option, officials say. “Safety is the paramount concern in our operations. Our Flytrex drones are equipped with advanced safety features and the latest technology to guarantee the secure and punctual delivery of prescribed medications. Upstate’s drones use automated navigation combined with real-time monitoring and are equipped with redundant safety systems. These are complemented by our vigilant team of professionals at Causey Aviation Unmanned, who oversee every operation, thereby ensuring the safe and timely delivery of medications,” said Jeff Causey, founder and chief executive officer of Causey Aviation Unmanned.

The drone delivery program is part of a pilot initiative to demonstrate the feasibility and safety of home drone deliveries. Launching in November 2023, the pilot program will first concentrate on home delivery within a half mile radius of the pharmacy located at 5000 West Seneca Turnpike and will gradually expand to additional areas. Select Upstate Outpatient Pharmacy customers have been notified of their eligibility to opt-in to the drone delivery program. By participating in this pilot program, Upstate pharmacy customers are actively contributing to the future of healthcare delivery.

About Air Upstate

Air Upstate is a cutting-edge initiative aimed at improving the speed and efficiency of couriered deliveries in the hospital space. Air Upstate uses uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to transport goods such as medications and lab specimens to a growing number of delivery locations.

About Causey Aviation

Causey Aviation Unmanned, founded in 2018, provides drone-based delivery services to thousands of customers' yards and public delivery points in New York, Texas and North Carolina. With an uncompromising focus on safety, innovation and efficiency, Causey Aviation Unmanned is helping to pioneer the drone delivery industry. In partnership with Flytrex, Causey Aviation Unmanned participates in the FAA BEYOND Program with the goal of safely integrating drones into the national airspace.  Causey Aviation Unmanned is headquartered in Liberty, North Carolina.


Caption: Residents observe a drone delivering prescription medications to a nearby residence during a trial run of Upstate's Outpatient Pharmacy's new drone delivery service. Upstate is seeking residents living near the pharmacy on West Seneca Turnpike to sign up for the new drone delivery service.