In a first for the UK, drones are used to send Covid-19 tests, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies between hospitals and healthcare facilities in Scotland and islands off the coast.
The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority has given permission for drone operator Skyports to use the drone flights following a test trial last year – and the mini-plane began sending deliveries between National Health Service (NHS) facilities in Argyll and the island of Bute this week. Initially, five external NHS facilities will be connected to the drones.
It takes up to 36 hours for a vehicle to take the trip by road and ferry. While the crow flies, however, the distance is much smaller and the drones can cut some travel times to 15 minutes. Medical cargo can be transported up to 64 km.
Skyports drones can carry up to 3 kg at a time – small but vital loads.
“This project emphasizes the viability of drone technology as a convenient way to move goods,” said Skyport’s CEO Duncan Walker.
The project is funded by European and British space agencies.
NHS personnel use the on-demand service to order Covid-19 test kits, medicines and other equipment that are compact enough to fit the payload of the drones.
This is not the first time drones have been used in the fight against Covid-19. In addition to providing critical supplies during the pandemic, drones have been sent for use by French police to monitor compliance with Covid-19 restrictions and record public demonstrations – uses that have been criticized by a French privacy guard.
They have also been used to disinfect streets in Dubai and to provide Covid tests in El Paso, Texas.
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