The consortium promising to build the world’s first nationwide medical drone transportation network in Scotland has taken another step toward attaining that goal with the official kickoff of the project’s second phase of activity.
The Care and Equity – Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland (CAELUS) consortium welcomed member organizations, stakeholders, and politicians to an event at Glasgow’s airport to initiate the new chapter in the campaign to create a national medical drone delivery system. The program had previously obtained nearly $14 million in funding from various healthcare and government agency backers and used the Glasgow confab to lay out objectives and timetables for the spade work that’s now set to begin.
Major elements in preparing for Scotland’s aerial medical transportation grid will include the designation of initial takeoff and landing sites, the construction of infrastructure to facilitate flights, and full testing of drones in the network. Overseeing those trials will be UAM delivery specialist and air taxi vertiport builder Skyports.
Skyports is among 16 CAELUS partners that also include 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 – including middle-mile transport specialist Dronamics, which will operate many of the medical deliveries.
The objective in creating the drone network is to use fast, clean, and relatively inexpensive aerial transportation to spirit medicines, lab samples, and other supplies where they’re needed for faster analysis and treatment.
The system is also intended to leapfrog the formidable terrain that must be crossed by ground vehicles to reach Scotland’s farther-flung and underserved communities. It will also allow patients to be cared for at home rather than having to undertake prolonged stays in distant hospitals or hospices.
“A drones network can ensure critical medical supplies can be delivered more efficiently, it can reduce waiting times for test results and, more importantly, it can provide equity of care between urban and remote rural communities,” said Fiona Smith, an executive with the AGS Airports Group, which is a key player in the CAELUS project.
“As well as being able to undertake live flights we can begin to deploy the physical infrastructure needed to support the drones across Scotland,” Smith said of phase two activity. “This will involve building prototype landing bases as well as digital and communication infrastructure” and working “with local communities to ensure they understand why and how the drones will be used.”
Live trial flights of the drone transport system are set to begin under Skyport’s direction, drawing on the deep experience it has acquired in providing more than 14,000 km of medical delivery services during spikes in the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.