A consortium led by AGS Airports in partnership with NHS Scotland is planning a nationwide drone-based medical distribution network called CAELUS (Care & Equity – Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland), following the securing of UKP10.1 million funding from the Future Flight Challenge at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
According to a consortium press release:
“CAELUS brings together 16 partners including the University of Strathclyde, NATS, NHS Scotland and Skyports. Together they are working to deliver what will be the first national drone network that can transport essential medicines, bloods and other medical supplies throughout Scotland including to remote communities. Since securing UKP1.5 million in January 2020, the CAELUS consortium has designed drone landing stations for NHS sites across Scotland and developed a virtual model (digital twin) of the proposed delivery network which connects hospitals, pathology laboratories, distribution centres and GP surgeries across Scotland.
“NHS Scotland has said it will bring its “Once for Scotland” approach to the project, the second phase of which will involve live flight trials and removing remaining barriers to safely using drones at scale within Scotland’s airspace.”
According to Fiona Smith, AGS Airports Group Head of Aerodrome Strategy and CAELUS Project Director, said: “A drones network can ensure critical medical supplies can be delivered more efficiently, it can reduce waiting times for test results and, more importantly, it can provide equity of care between urban and remote rural communities.”
“As well as being able to undertake live flights we can begin to deploy the physical infrastructure needed to support the drones across Scotland. This will involve building prototype landing bases as well as digital and communication infrastructure. We will also work with local communities to ensure they understand why and how the drones will be used.”
Live flight trials will be operated by CAELUS consortium member Skyports.
NHS Grampian’s Program Lead for Innovation, Hazel Dempsey, said: “Our aim, from an NHS perspective, is to test the use of drone technology in urban, remote, rural and island landscapes. We want to test if using drones to will improve important aspects of our logistics service, for example, to test the transportation of laboratory samples, blood products, chemotherapy, and medicine delivery. Ultimately, we want to explore if drone technology can speed up diagnosis and treatment of medical problems.”
The CAELUS consortium comprises:
AGS Airports Limited
ANRA Technologies UK
Connected Places Catapult
The Drone Office
University of Strathclyde
For more information