Helicus Aero Initiative targets integration of manned and unmanned operations in the healthcare sector by 2023

The Helicus Aero Initiative (HAI) launched in 2016 is developing an ecosystem to support aerial logistics solutions for the healthcare sector. To realise the goal of better healthcare, HAI manages a number of projects which rely on unmanned drone transport systems to deliver medical supplies. “This is a complex ecosystem,” says Helicus Managing Director Mikael Shamim. “The medical sector is an important use case for innovative unmanned aviation, and Helicus is tackling the relationship between manned and unmanned operations.” Shamim was speaking at the Network of U-space Demonstrators webinar organised by Eurocontrol on 28 May 2020.

Unmanned traffic management is central to the HAI ecosystem. The initiative aims to create a robust integrated environment for unmanned medical deliveries by 2023. Since test flights first started in 2017, HAI has conducted project in many different countries, including China. The first urban flight took place in Belgium as part of the SESAR U-space SAFIR Very Large Demonstration (VLD) programme. This tested several aspects including the procedural and legal framework, interface with the Helicus control centre, and between U-space service providers.

Two more projects are underway to address specific elements of unmanned deliveries. HAI-SCS looks at Scheduling, Connectivity and Security; while HAI-DCP examines Drone, Cargo, Port deliveries. These areas are fundamental to achieving scalability: “Reaching more hospitals, additional customers, and more countries,” says Shamim. Up to a third of Helicus’ time can be spent on connectivity. “We need a stable, robust, repeatable environment to create an economically viable environment and get the volume in the air and the infrastructure in place. Without U-space, we have no volume.”

Shamim says the work has to extend beyond individual flights to deliver results. “You need two things. First you need the technology, and second you need U-space to scale up.”  Among a number of critical success factors, Shamim identifies a need to address flight prioritisation between manned and unmanned aviation: “It may be time to reconsider priorities for manned aviation.” Automation also needs to develop – on the ground and in the air – in order to support affordable operations.

Finally, the hospital sector needs to establish its own processes and procedures. “There has to be adaptation within this sector.” Medicine remains a core target market, where “Speed equates to outcome,” says Shamim.

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(Image: Helicus)

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