UK Trials Medical Delivery Drones for COVID-19 Supply Runs

medical delivery drones

Source: Windracers.org

Medical delivery drones will carry supplies and equipment to a remote British isle under a COVID-19 trial program.

Last week, UK transport secretary Grant Shapps gave the green light to launch medical delivery drones to St Mary’s Hospital near Newport on the Isle of Wight.

“Earlier this year, we awarded £28 million ($35 million) to Southampton and Portsmouth to develop a Future Transport Zone,” Shapps said. “As part of that initiative, £8 million ($10 million) was earmarked for testing drones, and how they might be used for delivering goods in the years and decades ahead. Of course, now we have an urgent need, so we’re making use of that testing program as part of our response to COVID-19.”

The program will deploy gas-powered, fixed-wing medical delivery drones made by UAV relief group Windracers and the University of Southampton in partnership with Solent Transport.

“Our aim has always been to provide a fast, cost-effective service to transport humanitarian aid, medical supplies or other critical materials over long distances, whether over land, water or hostile terrain and to deliver where other vehicles or aircraft are unable to access,” Windracers executive chairman Stephen Wright said.

The drones can carry around 220 pounds for a maximum distance of 621 miles. The flight from Solent Airport to St. Mary’s Hospital, Isle of Wight will take about 20 minutes.

Maggie Oldham, Chief Executive of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, praised the program:

“Providing NHS services on an island comes with a number of challenges, so it is fantastic to see the progress being made to support health care on the Isle of Wight through the use of new and innovative technology. This work has the potential to significantly improve services for our local community by reducing waiting times for test results and speeding up the transfer of important, possibly life-saving medication.”

Initial flights will carry PPE, with future plans to use medical delivery drones to carry time-critical supplies such as blood and organs.

Medical delivery drones have become more commonplace over the past few years. Drone delivery service provider Skyports is working with British regulators to test BVLOS flight in airspace shared by other aircraft.

Israeli UAS startup Flytrex is partnering with EASE Drones, the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation and the City of Grand Forks to deliver food, medicine and other essential goods to residents’ backyards.

Last year, Irish researchers at NUI Galway partnered with German drone startup Wingcopter to transport prescription medication and blood samples for diabetes patients. Wingcopter has also partnered with pharma giant Merck to deliver pigment samples from a Merck site in Gernsheim, Germany.

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