NHS Scotland Drone Delivery Trial Supports Covid-19 Response

By Thales | May 28, 2020

An NHS Scotland drone delivery trial will support the U.K.’s COVID-19 response – and help prove the case for drone delivery between remote healthcare facilities.

Thales SOARIZON, providers of drone operations management solutions, has partnered with U.K. drone delivery provider Skyports to work with Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), the integrated partnership of NHS Highland and Argyll and Bute Council directed by the local Integration Joint Board.  The trial uses German company Wingcopter‘s delivery drones to “prove the feasibility of delivering urgent medical cargo, such as COVID-19 test kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), between remote medical facilities by delivery drone,” says a joint press release.

“Based at Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban, the trial will consist of two-way flights between the hospital and Mull and Iona Community Hospital in Craignure 10 miles (16km) away on the Isle of Mull,” says the release.

The service has a very clear benefit for the communities served.  The heath centers at these isolated communities usually receive supplies by ground transport and ferry, a journey that can take up to 6 hours one way.  The on-demand drone delivery system will be able to deliver COVID-19 tests and other medical supplies in about 15 minutes.

In addition, the NHS Scotland drone delivery trials will help move flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) forward in the U.K.  Thales and Skyports are working closely with the CAA to facilitate these extended flights.

“Through this trial, the alliance aims to prove the long-term, sustainable viability of such services; bringing together regulation, government and industry to unlock the transformational potential of drones for society when used in a safe, secure and controlled way,” says the press release.

“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,” said Duncan Walker, CEO of Skyports.   “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.”

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,” said Joanna Macdonald, Chief Officer for Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership.  “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.”