Consortium in Scotland gets funds for medical drone delivery network

Scotland medical drone delivery

A consortium of national health care and UAV organizations in Scotland has secured funding for the launch of what it says will be the UK’s first country-wide drone medical delivery and distribution system. 

The Care and Equity – Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland (CAELUS) consortium said it has obtained an additional $12.1 million in finances from the UK’s drone tech promotion agency to continue work on a UAV medical delivery network. Those funds from the UK Research and Innovation’s Future (UKRI) Flight Challenge program follow an earlier $1.7 million the group of 16 partnered organizations had obtained for the project. Its goal is to fly essential medicines, blood products, and critical supplies between hospitals, laboratories, distribution centers, and even individual medical offices across Scotland.

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Among CAELUS partners are the University of Strathclyde, UK air traffic control service providers NATS, and Scotland’s National Health System. The consortium also involves an array of drone sector companies ­– both large and small – that have been developing a specialized drone to operate the medical delivery network. Members have also been preparing designated takeoff and landing stations – some of which will eventually be located in many of Scotland’s remote and under-served communities. 

With finances secured, CAELUS will shift into a second phase of preparing the future aerial transport system and planning the kind of flight modes required for relatively long hauls. The consortium operates under the aegis of AGS, which owns and manages airports in Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Southampton. Also involved in the program is vertiport construction and drone delivery specialist Skyports, which will help oversee testing of beyond visual line of sight flights starting in 2023. 

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The work by CAELUS to create a nation-wide medical drone delivery and distribution network in Scotland is the latest in recent moves to place the nation at the head of UAV transport and service development. Previous projects include a plan to fly mail and goods to islands in the Hebrides, creation of a drone activity and training hub, and trials aerial transport of hot lunches to schools. 

Use of the craft to increase the speed and efficiency of medical deliveries, officials say, is another sign of Scotland’s intent to be a global leader in drone innovation.

“The CAELUS project is set to revolutionize the way in which healthcare services are delivered in Scotland… (and) ensure critical medical supplies can be delivered more efficiently, reduce waiting times for test results, and, more importantly, provide equity of care between urban and remote rural communities,” said Fiona Smith, AGS Airports Group official and CAELUS project director. “The second round of funding from UKRI will allow our consortium to undertake live flights and begin to deploy the physical infrastructure needed to support the drones across Scotland… We will also work with local communities to ensure they understand why and how the drones will be used.”

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