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Drone Delivery Trials to Transport Medical Supplies to Scottish Island

Ross Kelly

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drone delivery

Drones are set to be used to deliver vital medical supplies to a hospital on the Isle of Mull. 

The trial will see equipment including face masks and Covid-19 testing kits flown between the Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban and the Mull and Iona Community Hospital at Craigmure on the Isle of Mull.

The 20-mile round journey will be coordinated by drone delivery provider, Skyports, with the unmanned aircraft provided by Wingcopter.

Flights are expected to take no more than 15 minutes, whereas conventional deliveries to the community hospital on Mull would require a lengthy drive and a 45-minute journey by ferry.

Skyports is collaborating with Thales as part of the project, which is also being supported by the Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership.

Joanna Macdonald, chief officer for the social care partnership, commented: “I am delighted that Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership is again at the forefront in Scotland using new technologies to benefit our patients.

“The use of drones provides real opportunities to improve services and will help enable quicker diagnosis for our patients. We are excited to be working with Skyports in the design of this new service.”

Skyports said the two-week trial represents a “crucial milestone” for unmanned aviation in the UK and could prove the long-term viability of drone delivery services.

In a regulatory sense, the trial is a breakthrough. Under current rules, drones must be flown within visual line of sight of the pilot.

To undertake these extended flights, however, the project team consulted closely with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and gained approval to carry them out.

Once successfully completed, the firm said it will continue to work with the CAA and NHS to make drone delivery services available across the country.

Duncan Walker, CEO of Skyports, said: “Delivery drones are a fast and reliable solution for vital medical supplies. Skyports is proud to assist the NHS in Scotland with their Covid-19 response, helping to provide the essential healthcare that people need in harder-to-reach areas.

“Our trial in Argyll and Bute provides an important short-term response to the current pandemic and lays the foundations from which to grow a permanent drone delivery operation across a network of healthcare facilities around the country.”

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Thales CEO, Alex Cresswell added: “This trial demonstrates the positive role that unmanned technology can play in our society and represents a landmark step to accelerate its adoption.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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