Drone project set to reduce delivery times to Scottish islands

By Damian Brett

Skyports WingCopter

Aerospace firm Thales and cargo drone company Skyports are trialling a new drone delivery system for the National Health Service (NHS) in Scotland, which will speed up the delivery of supplies to islands.

Based at Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban, the trial will consist of two-way flights between the hospital and Mull and Iona Community Hospital in Craignure 10 m (16 km) away on the Isle of Mull.

UK drone delivery provider Skyports will conduct the trial  and operate the flights using delivery drones supplied by unmanned aircraft-maker Wingcopter.

This service will see delivery times cut from up to six hours one-way by ground transport and ferry to around 15 minutes, on-demand, by drone, bringing savings in terms of time and resource cost.

Currently, the majority of medical supplies and specimens are transported between the laboratory at Lorn and Islands Hospital and surrounding general practitioners’ surgeries and other healthcare settings by sea and road, a long and complicated journey.

As Covid-19 testing rapidly gathers pace in the UK, the proposed delivery service will help to ensure that isolated communities have access to tests, delivered in a fast and efficient way.

Under current rules, drones must always be flown within visual line of sight of the remote pilot. To undertake these more extended flights, the project team has been in close consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority.

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