The UK plans to establish a network of secure air corridors for electric drones to navigate via satellite-enabled GPS. Healthcare drone company Apian is participating in the National Health Service Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, along with organisations across the space sector, to test healthcare applications using the corridors. Apian plans to test drones carrying COVID-19 samples, test-kits and PPE. This will avoid courier call-out waiting times, free-up NHS staff, reduce unnecessary physical contact and minimise the risk of secondary transmission of the virus.
Several projects – set to receive GBP1.3m of funding – have been selected as part of a joint initiative between the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA) which has already provided one round of funding in July, worth GBP1.1 million, to companies developing space based solutions for issues created by COVID-19.
The NHS project will be based at Broomfield Hospital, part of Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust and will be supported by the local Anglia Ruskin University as the academic partner.
Christopher Law, from Apian said: “COVID-19 has highlighted challenges in NHS supply chain logistics. There has never been a better time to create a faster, more dependable and environmentally friendly method of transporting medical supplies. We are confident that by setting up a medical drone delivery service, we’ll be able to fly samples to labs more regularly, reliably and quickly, improving patient health outcomes.”
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