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British Army and NHS to collaborate over drones flying urgent medicines to Isle of Wight

By Chris Stonor

Cancer sufferers on the Isle of Wight (IOW) look set to benefit from a collaboration between the British Army and the UK NHS alongside  Apian and Skylift UAV, reports adsadvance.co.uk.

Until now medical services at the Island’s St Mary’s Hospital can wait up to five hours to receive urgent medicines, chemotherapy and drugs. Delivering these vital supplies means a ponderous taxi journey from Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital to the city’s ferry terminal and then a crossing over to the island, followed by yet another taxi ride to the waiting hospital staff. A costly and time-consuming journey often open to the vagaries of weather, ferry delays and cancellations.

The advances in drone technology drones means that the IOW can soon become the latest UK region to have its own drone drug delivery service.

The drones are based and operated from the British Army’s Baker Barracks on Thorney Island. A safe location away from the general public, it is an excellent base to conduct flight operations from and to keep the drones overnight in a large secure hangar. The former airfield is now home to the British Army’s 7 Air Defence Group and its subordinate 12 and 16 Regiments Royal Artillery. Although, being based at these barracks comes with a twist of irony as the two air defence regiments there are trained to shoot down aircraft, missiles and, naturally, drones.

Meanwhile, Apian Ltd., a healthcare company that marries the health services with the drone industry and drone operating company Skylift UAV, are nearing the end of what has been a successful three-month trial period.

Using an 85kg drone with a five-metre wingspan, a payload weighing 20kg has been successfully transported the 47 kilometres round trip from the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth to St Mary’s Hospital near Newport on the Isle of Wight, slashing the time it often takes to a mere 30 minutes.

An army spokesperson commented, “Moving items by drone across the Solent will help speed up the delivery of critical supplies from hospitals on the mainland to the Isle of Wight and will ensure patients receive prescribed chemotherapy drugs efficiently.”

Praising the army, Alexander Trewby, CEO of Apian Ltd, said, “It is because of the generosity shown by them that has brought this project so far. To be able to have a permanent base from which to operate from in such an ideal location has really paid huge dividends.”

There is still more research work to be completed. Scientists from Southampton and London’s King’s College Universities are studying the impact of drone flight including vibration temperature fluctuation and other factors on redundant chemotherapy ahead of the NHS approving the transport of live medicines.

Chemotherapy drugs, once created, in this case at the Queen Alexandra Hospital’s Pharmacy Manufacturing Unit, has a very limited shelf life. Typically, once made it needs to be in the patient within four hours. By cutting the delivery time to 30 minutes means patients will no longer need to make the tiring and sometimes distressing journey to the mainland for their treatment.

Alexander Trewby

The drones employed have a vertical take-off and land capability yet convert to forward propulsion once at the required altitude. Being electric they are far less audible, a significant consideration given they will be flying around hospitals. Their 20-kilogram payload is sufficient to transport batches of chemotherapy in their watertight and insulated protective medical carriers.

When up and running these drones will save the NHS money, time and resources, but perhaps more importantly they will save distress, pain and suffering for those patients on the IOW battling against cancer.

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(News Source: https://www.adsadvance.co.uk)

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