In late October, DroneDJ reported about an ambitious medical drone delivery trial in the UK linking three Midlands hospitals with 24/7 on-demand service operating under the same time pressures and weather conditions a live service would. Two months into the tests, the partners behind it have communicated some impressive results.
Drone services provider Skyfarer is running the medical delivery trial using a 32-kilometer aerial corridor between hospitals in Rugby and the company’s Coventry base. The round-the-clock operation is seeking to prove the viability of UAV transport of vital, often urgently needed materials to healthcare providers in a faster, more efficient, and emission-free manner than traditional ground options. Roughly two-thirds of the way through the experiment, Skyfarer is reporting some pretty big numbers.
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It says more than 1,889 kilometers have been covered thus far by its delivery drones, including a 220-kilometer single-day total shuttling medical supplies between the trio of hospitals. Just as impressive, all those beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) outings were performed without the slightest hitch.
“The first few weeks of the trial have provided an invaluable experience – we were very ambitious in what we wanted to achieve from a technical point of view because we are keen to prove what the drones and the flight corridor are capable of,” says Skyfarer project manager Georgia Hanrahan. “We have already hit some impressive statistics when it comes to beyond visual line of sight flight times and distances, which have all been completed without incident.”
London-based, nation-spanning ground courier company Medical Logistics UK is funding the Midlands drone delivery trial as part of its effort to switch to all-electric vehicles, as well as pursue diversification of its conveyance methods.
The aerial medical delivery tests also represent the start of the third phase in the UK’s “Skyway” drone corridor development effort. That program is headed by the government’s next-generation aviation promotional initiative, Future Flight, which is looking to create a 265-kilometer UAV superhighway with support from uncrewed aircraft traffic management specialist, Altitude Angel.
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The Midlands medical drone delivery experiment is operated from Skyfarer’s Coventry hub, which includes a soundproof BVLOS flight operation room, picking and packing station, on-demand order management system, and a workshop for craft maintenance.
With the first two months of the trial having produced remarkable, trouble-free results, Skyfarer is now shifting into particularly demanding medical drone delivery scenarios serving the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) will involve.
“We are now looking forward to the next phases of the trial, focusing on NHS use cases and exploring the value of this technology in further improving the efficiency of transporting time-sensitive items,” Hanrahan says.