One of the UK’s largest airport agencies is leading the development of Scotland’s first drone delivery network to transport medicine, blood and organs.
AGS Airports, which owns and manages Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports, is leading a consortium of 14 groups including the University of Strathclyde and air traffic control provider NATS.
Dubbed CAELUS (Care & Equity – Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland), the project snagged $2 million from the UK Industrial Strategy Future Flight Challenge Fund with a focus on autonomous drone delivery to rural areas of Scotland.
“In addition to developing the ground infrastructure needed to recharge the drones and the systems to control them while flying, a key aspect of the project will be designing pathways to ensure the drones can safely share airspace with civil aviation,” an AGS spokesperson said. “The project will also ensure critical aspects such as public safety, security and noise levels are considered.”
Scheduled to operate though spring 2022, the project will create a digital blueprint of a drone delivery network to connect hospitals, pathology laboratories, distribution centers and medical practices across Scotland.
“This project has the potential to completely revolutionize the way in which healthcare services are delivered in Scotland,” Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports, said.
“Not only does drone technology have the ability to speed-up the delivery of critical medical supplies, it could reduce waiting times for test results and, more importantly, help provide equity of care between urban and remote rural communities.”
The Scottish Government’s Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:
“This innovative project will help position Scotland at the forefront of drone technologies to deliver essential healthcare supplies to people more quickly, especially those living remote locations. It also demonstrates, once again, that when businesses, universities and public sector work together they can deliver for Scotland and outperform the competition, attracting welcome funding at this challenging time.”
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.
Last year, UK transport secretary Grant Shapps authorized medical delivery drones to carry supplies and equipment to St Mary’s Hospital near Newport on the Isle of Wight under a COVID-19 trial program.
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.
In 2019, 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.
The CAELUS consortium comprises:
- AGS Airports Limited
- NATS (Services) Limited
- ANRA Technologies UK Ltd
- Schneider Electric (UK) Limited
- Atkins Ltd
- Avy – Drones for Good
- The Drone Office Ltd
- Connected Places Catapult
- Trax International Ltd
- DGP Intelsius Limited
- uAvionix Ltd
- Leonardo MW Ltd
- University of Strathclyde
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