Thales partners with Skyports to conduct drone delivery to support UK COVID-19 response

Thales and Skyports have partnered to conduct drone delivery trial for the NHS in Scotland to support COVID-19 response in the UK, the companies said.

The aim of the trial, backed by Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) — part of NHS Highland, is to prove the delivery of urgent medical cargo, such as COVID-19 test kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), between remote medical facilities by delivery drone.

UK drone delivery provider Skyports will conduct the trial and operate the flights using delivery drones supplied by unmanned aircraft-maker Wingcopter, because of its proven capability through numerous delivery operations around the world. These trial flights will be planned through Thales´s leading drone operations management platform, SOARIZON, which offers digital tools to maintain compliant and safe drone flying operations.

Based at Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban, the trial will consist of two-way flights between the hospital and Mull and Iona Community Hospital in Craignure 10 miles (16km) away on the Isle of Mull.

The proposed delivery service will help to ensure that isolated communities have access to tests, delivered in a fast and efficient way. Currently, the majority of medical supplies and specimens are transported between the laboratory at Lorn and Islands Hospital and surrounding general practitioners´ surgeries and other healthcare settings by sea and road, a long and complicated journey.

The two-week trial represents a crucial milestone for unmanned aviation in the UK. Under current rules, drones must always be flown within visual line of sight of the remote pilot. To undertake these more extended flights, the project team has been in close consultation with the CAA.