By Charlie Loran • 19 October 2020 • 8:50
FORMER military fighter pilots have been recruited to fly drones carrying Covid-19 samples, test kits, and personal protective equipment between hospitals in the UK.
Apian, which was founded by NHS staff as part of the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, aims to establish a network of secure air corridors for electric drones to navigate via satellite-enabled GPS.
It is hoped that the drone delivery service 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.
The medical drones are being piloted by former RAF and Royal Navy fighter pilots from the York-based unmanned aircraft training company Flyby Technology.
The project will be based at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, 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.”
It is installing drone pad infrastructure so its aircraft can take off from and land at hospitals, laboratories, and warehouses.
Following the drone trials, the company aims to create the UK’s NHS Air Grid (NAG), a network of secure air corridors designed to safely, rapidly, and effectively enable drone delivery across the NHS.
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