A new drone delivery service is looking to support hospitals in Britain through the coronavirus pandemic with medical supply drop-offs.
The Apian project, founded by Hammad Jeilani and Christopher Law as part of the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, will transport equipment, including Covid-19 samples, test kits and protective gear, between hospitals to speed up the process and free up manpower.
Networks of secure ‘air corridors’ will be established for electric drones to navigate via satellite-enabled GPS called the UK’s NHS Air Grid (NAG). This will help the service to work safely across National Health Service sites.
Apian is trailing “dronepad” infrastructure so the drones can take off from and land on hospitals, laboratories, and warehouses.
Boasting the backing of the UK Space Agency, the project will be based at Broomfield Hospital, part of Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, and supported by the local Anglia Ruskin University as an academic partner.
Commenting on the new project, Apian co-founder Christopher Law said: “Covid-19 has highlighted challenges in NHS supply chain logistics.
“There has never been a better time to create a faster, more dependable, and environmentally friendly method of transporting medical supplies.
“We are confident that by setting up a medical drone delivery service, we’ll be able to fly samples to labs more regularly, reliably and quickly, improving patient health outcomes.”
The UK and European Space Agencies are funding three projects developing space-based solutions for challenges created by Covid-19. The Apian project is taking a share of a £1.3 million pot being released by the two agencies.
Also being backed is a mobile app called DriverNet that will use satellite technology to “provide access to more affordable community transport”.
Geolocation data will be collected using artificial intelligence to ‘batch’ patients and encourage transport sharing. This could reduce costs and miles by half as well as helping to reduce the 15 million missed NHS appointments each year.
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As well as this, there will be a project led by the University of Edinburgh, that builds on the Earth Blox (Quosient Ltd.) cloud-based software for harnessing planetary-scale satellite-intelligence.
The collaboration will provide distance learning support to students who would have been studying Earth Observation science.
Commenting on the projects, Emily Gravestock, Head of Applications Strategy at the UK Space Agency, said: “Once again, the UK space industry has risen to the challenge.
“The variety of innovative solutions continues to impress me and I look forward to seeing how satellite applications built by UK industry can improve healthcare services, reduce carbon emissions and enhance education.”