The United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) has turned to medical delivery drones to deliver COVID testing kits to hospitals. The drone delivery trial has been backed by the UK Space Agency, which has handed over £1.3 million or around $1.7 million.

The medical delivery trial hopes to build future rules, regulations, and air corridors that can be implemented for other drone delivery projects. The project is the brainchild of the drone startup Apian, founded by Christopher Law and Hammad Jeilani.

The drones will be flying at around 300 feet in the air and can carry up to 4 pounds of COVID tests and other emergency medicine. The drones can also fly up to 60 miles away on a single charge.

“Covid-19 has highlighted challenges in NHS supply chain logistics. 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, helping improve patient health outcomes.”

Christopher Law

The drones will be piloted by an ex-military jet or helicopter instructor and will fly between Broomfield hospital, Basildon hospital, and the Pathology First laboratory. The aerial deliveries aim to reduce the number of people that come in contact with the testing kits to reduce possible infections as well as freeing up hospital staff and delivery drivers.

Drones and COVID-19

Drones have been present throughout the global pandemic, with some saying that this demonstrates how truly useful they are. Recently, the University of California San Diego (UCSD) developed a disinfecting drone with UV-C lights. Many countries are using drones to disinfect public areas, along with monitoring busy areas to ensure people are following social distancing rules.

Photo: Annalisa Russell-Smith

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