NHS bids to trial drone deliveries

NHS hospitals and medical centres in the UK’s Solent area are applying for money to trial drone delivery of blood samples and other medical supplies.

One of the routes planned for the pilot is between St Mary’s hospital in Newport, Isle of Wight and Southampton General on the mainland.

The NHS pilot project would be funded by the Department for Transport’s Future Mobility Zones fund. According to those bidding to run the pilot this would be the first beyond-visual-line-of-sight operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

“Fixed-wing and vertical-take-off-and-landing UAVs, collectively described as ‘drones’, are starting to see increasing use for medical logistics in the developing world where companies such as Zipline have established commercial services moving blood and pathology samples from remote communities to hospitals for analysis in rural Ghana and Rwanda,” says the bid submission. 

“Implementing these approaches in the developed world, where there are high levels of commercial air traffic and complex regulation, which currently restricts ‘beyond-visual-line-of-sight’ (BVLOS) UAV operations is more challenging.” 

The Solent transport authority says a trial movement of a live organ occurred between medical establishments in the United States in May, adding that: “Commercial interest is growing regarding setting up similar services to assist the NHS.

“Medical logistics is likely to be the initial domain that sees the first mass deployment of UAVs in a commercial context.”

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