Boots has become the first community pharmacy in the UK to transport prescription-only medicines by drone.

The multiple completed a test flight transporting medicines by drone from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight earlier this month.

The flight departed from the British Army’s Baker Barracks on Thorney Island near Portsmouth and arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight. The medicines were collected by Boots and transported to its pharmacies across the island, where they will be dispensed to patients.

Boots worked with medical drone start-up Apian to facilitate the test flight and is now assessing the potential for drones in medicines delivery.

Rich Corbridge, chief information officer at Boots, said that ‘drones have a huge potential in the delivery of medicines’, adding that ‘it is incredibly exciting to be the first community pharmacy in the UK to transport them in this way’.

He continued: ‘An island location like the Isle of Wight seemed like a sensible place to start a trial of drones and their value to the delivery of medicines to more remote locations is very clear.

‘In this trial, we will be looking at how much time we can save, as well as how we can incorporate drones into our medicines supply chain to create economic efficiencies too. We want to prepare now for the wider use of this technology in the future.’

Max Coppin, chief operating officer at Apian, added: ‘Not only can drones deliver medicine to hospitals but we are particularly excited about our partnership with Boots as it demonstrates drones can also help bring care closer to communities. Whilst faster and more reliable than ground transportation they bring with them additional environmental benefits and offer a more sustainable solution for delivery.’

The electric drones can carry up to 20kg and will be based at Baker Barracks and flown by professional drone pilots. The Civil Aviation Authority has granted permission for them to fly in segregated airspace between the Barracks on and St. Mary’s Hospital’s helipad.

This comes after Boots announced this month that it was preparing to have a pharmacist independent prescriber in each of its stores by supporting the cost of the course and investing in training bursaries for 500 of its pharmacists.