UK pharmacy Boots has completed a test flight from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight which involved prescription-only medicines being delivered by drone.

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.

Boots collected the medicines and transported them to its pharmacies across the island, where they will be distributed to patients with prescriptions for them.

Rich Corbridge, chief information officer at Boots, said: “Drones have huge potential in the delivery of medicines, and it is incredibly exciting to be the first community pharmacy in the UK to transport them in this way.

“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.”

The trial was first announced in early July as the NHS celebrated 74 years since it was formed and was predicted to cut the usual delivery time from four hours to 30 minutes.

To help the test flight run smoothly, Boots worked with medical drone startup Apian and is now assessing the potential for drones to deliver medicines in the future.

The drones, also known as uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), were designed and developed by Skylift, who were chosen by Apian to be the project’s drone operator partners.

Max Coppin, chief operating officer at Apian, said: “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.”