A UK-first trial is underway to connect two Midlands hospitals by a drone flight ‘corridor’ that will speed up medical deliveries.
Skyfarer Ltd, which is based in Coventry, and partner Medical Logistics UK have begun a collaborative Medical Drone Delivery Beyond Visual Line of Sight trial.
The Medical Logistics UK corridor connects 32km of airspace between the University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire Trust’s hospitals in Coventry and Rugby and will be in place for a three-month period from October until December 2022, to conduct a record-breaking number of routine and ad hoc medical drone deliveries.
The long-term aim of the trial is to help ease the growing pressures on the healthcare system, where there is an ever-expanding need for hospitals to receive vital time-sensitive medical supplies.
Project Manager for Skyfarer Georgia Hanrahan said: “As a result of significant road congestion and heavy infrastructure, we believe the use of drones can help support medical deliveries and speed up the process.
“There are no potholes in the sky, nor is there as much congestion, and without the need for heavy infrastructure to land, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can add to the fleet of logistical transfers and provide a faster, more sustainably friendly and cheaper solution.”
Skyfarer was founded in 2017 by Elliot Parnham, an Aerospace & Engineering graduate from Coventry University with the aim of using drones for good in society, with the first of its projects being Medical Drone Delivery.
Parnham said: “I started Skyfarer back in 2017 and it was all on that message of trying to provide societal change and that’s through this new high value technology of UAVs, or drones, being used in positive use cases such as medical delivery.”
This trial is sponsored and made possible by London-based Medical Couriers, Medical Logistics UK, a leading provider of time-sensitive medical deliveries and personalised on-demand medical tests. It offers national coverage, a competitive pricing structure and the highest standards in the market as it is CQC registered and UKAS accredited.
The company has a keen interest in technology, emission-free solutions and net zero targets, drones were an obvious need to the addition of the 90 per cent electric fleet of medical vehicles, which will increase to 100 per cent by the end of 2023.
Managing Director at Medical Logistics, Alex Landowski said: “I welcome our new partnership as an opportunity to revolutionise the UK medical supply chain. With our emission-free solution, this UK-first trial over land will conduct a record-breaking number of routine and ad hoc medical deliveries.”
This trial also kicks off the first leg of the Future Flight Phase 3 project’s corridor called “Skyway”, led by partners and UTM industry leaders Altitude Angel.
Skyway is a drone superhighway connecting 265km of the UK by the sky, for operators such as Skyfarer to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight safely and routinely.
Skyfarer is the lead operator of the project as the Medical Logistics UK corridor is the first stage of the drone superhighway and creates a massive first step in the completion of the two-year project.
This trial is the first of its kind as it is over land, between two NHS Trust hospitals, in a Hub-Centric Network and operating 24 hours, meaning that all operations are controlled from one central location and flown Beyond Visual Line of Sight.
Flights will be conducted in all weather conditions throughout the remainder of the year as well as at varying times of day so that the Flight Operations team can work with the Trust to determine how this technology can be permanently integrated going forward, with the aim of ensuring that it is accessible to each department whenever it is required.
A series of routine and ad hoc emergency flights will also be conducted to determine the reliability of the Skyfarer service and futureproof the NHS integration.
The trial has been made possible by consortium partners Phoenix Wings, Altitude Angel, UHCW NHS Trust, Everyware, BT and Airbox Systems.