- The UK will use drones to deliver medical supplies as part of the fight against COVID-19.
- Under a trial of the technology, the drones will carry personal protective equipment between three hospitals in Hampshire, a county in southern England, and the Isle of Wight, an island off England’s south coast.
- The UK government’s transport secretary said the trial will be brought forward to this week due to “urgent need.”
- The drones could be used to deliver time-sensitive supplies, such as blood and organs, in the future.
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The UK will trial using drones to deliver urgent medical supplies and equipment as part of the fight against COVID-19.
Under a trial that starts this week, an autonomous drone will carry personal protective equipment from three hospitals in Hampshire, a county in southern England, to a hospital on the Isle of Wight, an island off England’s south coast, and back again.
The drone trial was initially slated to take place in 2021, but UK government transport secretary Grant Shapps said Friday that the trial will be brought forward to this week due to “urgent need.”
The Isle of Wight is part of the UK but is heavily reliant on ferries from the mainland to provide it with supplies. As ferry services to and from the mainland are currently reduced, the need for alternative ways to provide it with supplies is paramount.
—Chris Fox (@thisisFoxx) April 24, 2020
The trial will use a petrol-fueled Windracers Ultra fixed-wing drone, built by the University of Southampton, to transport protective equipment. The two flights – from Hampshire to the Isle of Wight and back again – will be overseen by two pilots.
Although this specific model of drone can carry 100 kilograms for up to 1,000 kilometers, the drone won’t initially carry its maximum load during the trial.
A spokeswoman told the BBC that the drones could be used to deliver time-sensitive supplies, such as blood and organs, in the future.
Maggie Oldham, chief executive at Isle of Wight NHS Trust, said: “Providing NHS services on an island comes with a number of challenges, so it is fantastic to see the progress being made to support health care on the Isle of Wight through the use of new and innovative technology.
“This work has the potential to significantly improve services for our local community by reducing waiting times for test results and speeding up the transfer of important, possibly life-saving medication.”
Drones are already being used in various countries as a (controversial) means of enforcing stay-at-home orders.