Following its recent investment with Altitude Angel, BT Group’s incubation arm Etc is creating partnerships to deliver transformational commercial drone operations. With its continued involvement in Project Skyway, an automated drone superhighway in the UK, BT is expanding its role in future drone operations, says a company press release.
The advancements drones can make in healthcare and medical delivery are starting to be explored, and a UK medical delivery drone trial has taken place connecting two Midlands hospitals, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust sites in Coventry and Rugby. This is the UK’s first over-land Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) trial completed in the heart of the UK, in complex airspace, close to urban areas, says BT.
Skyfarer, aerial logistics specialists based in Coventry with partner, Medical Logistics UK, began the BVLOS medical Drone Delivery trial in October 2022. The trial uses BT’s drone connectivity solution to enable drone mission communications, powered by the EE network.
The 32km drone route connects University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, a total of 130 flights and more than 30 hours’ worth of BVLOS flights were completed during the trial. More than 1,900km have been flown, including 220km by drone in a single day, without any faults or failures to report. This is the equivalent of flying from London to North Africa.
During the trial, Skyfarer conducted a carbon emission saving study, which identified a 99.98% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to a diesel van and a 90.5% reduction in emissions compared to an electric van.
The connectivity provided for this trial by BT is optimised for use at altitude and compliant with emerging UK regulation and standards. An example of this is assisting Skyfarer with restricting cellular frequencies which aren’t allowed at altitude. Collaboration between Etc and drone partners like Skyfarer is key to enabling real world testing, ensuring the airspace is safe for critical drone flights such as medical and blue light services.
Skyfarer has been using BT’s drone connectivity solution to power this trial, using the EE network to make drone connectivity and prioritising critical drone communications over standard internet traffic. The solution also provides unlimited data, allowing the user to send as much video footage as needed back to base from the drone directly.
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