Coronavirus: Thales and Skyports conduct drone delivery trial in Scotland


UK drone delivery provider Skyports and aerospace and defense firm Thales are trialing delivery drone flights using drones from German company Wingcopter.

The flights are being planned using Thales’ drone operations management platform Soarizon and are backed by the local National Health Service Trust NHS Highland. They will deliver urgent medical cargo, such as Covid-19 test kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), between remote medical facilities

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 miles (16km) away on the Isle of Mull.

The proposed delivery service will help to ensure that isolated communities have access to tests and reduce the time medical supplies take to be delivered. This service will see delivery times cut from up to 6 hours one-way by ground transport and ferry to around 15 minutes, on-demand, by drone.

According to Skyports, the two-week trial is a crucial milestone for unmanned aviation in the UK because the drone flights will be conducted beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). Alex Cresswell, CEO of Thales UK said, “This trial demonstrates the positive role that unmanned technology can play in our society and represents a landmark step to accelerate its adoption. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with industry partners, regulators and government.”

Duncan Walker, CEO of Skyports said, Delivery drones are a fast and reliable solution for vital medical supplies. Our trial in Argyll and Bute provides an important short-term response to the current pandemic and lays the foundations from which to grow a permanent drone delivery operation across a network of healthcare facilities around the country.”

Joanna Macdonald, chief officer for Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, said, “The use of drones provides real opportunities to improve services and will help enable quicker diagnosis for our patients. We are excited to be working with Skyports in the design of this new service.”

Once the trial has been completed, the team plans to continue to work with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority and the NHS to make the drone transport services to other NHS Boards and Trusts across the UK.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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