Thanks to a UKP1.1 million funding by the UK Space Agency, the on-going trials by drone company Skyports of delivering COVID-19 antibody test kits between Oban and the Isle of Mull has cut transport time by 30 minutes over the conventional ferry, reports the dailymail.co.uk.
Skyports started a two week trial of their autonomous delivery scheme in May with support from NHS Highland to serve islands off the west coast of Scotland. They found that their technology has cut the time it takes to get the kits between Oban and the Isle of Mull from 45 minutes by ferry to just 15 minutes with a drone.
The funding arrangement is part of a wider £2.6 million funding scheme from the UK and European Space Agencies designed to find ways to help space-tech firms support the NHS in its fight against COVID-19.
Science minister Amanda Solloway said the UK now has a world leading space sector and it is stepping up to provide innovative solutions to support the NHS. “The projects we are backing today show UK ingenuity at its finest, and will make a real difference to how we use this latest innovative technology to deliver critical healthcare now and long into the future,” Solloway said.
Skyports will also work to use drones to deliver other medical supplies and samples from a hospital on the Argyll and Bute mainland to the islands as well as flying blood and fluid samples from Hebridean islands such as Coll and Tiree to hospital labs on the mainland in proposed trials this winter. The German-built drones carry loads of up to 6kg in a pod slung underneath the aircraft, which could be used to fly up to 50 miles in these next tests.
This longer trial, funded by the UK Space Agency, will allow NHS Highland to confirm whether drones can be permanently integrated into its transport of emergency supplies and test samples, and could eventually be used throughout Scotland’s islands.
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