UK uses drones to improve healthcare
A British consortium formed by Skyfarer, O2, Cranfield University, Phoenix Wings and Altitude Angel is trying to create a network of drones to improve medical services. The network can speed up patient response and sample return times, as well as blood transport required for transfusions.
In the future, the consortium hopes to build a nationwide infrastructure to enable same-day arrival of autonomous drones. For now, however, the project is only focused on the Midlands, which include cities such as Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester and Wolverhampton.
The consortium has received an operational authorization from the UK Civil Aviation Authority for Extended Line of Sight Operations (EVLOS) using an Overweight Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). This will allow the group to conduct short-range flight tests, which will begin after Easter. In the next phase of the project, the consortium will conduct a study to identify the best locations for potential drone corridors, where drones will be able to deliver medical supplies without the need for a human driver. This summer, the consortium will also conduct shipping trials to see how the hardware performs.
If the consortium can prove that drones are an effective method of delivering medical supplies, it will improve the blood supply needed for blood transfusions and also reduce the number of heavy vehicles on the road. Heavy goods vehicles currently account for 17% of UK domestic transport emissions, so reducing these vehicles on the road could improve traffic.
Each member of the alliance brings unique expertise and resources. O2 will work with Ofcom to develop SIM cards for medical transport drones to keep them flying safely; Cranfield University will use its airports to help with phased trials; Altitude Angel has the right to make the consortium's drones safe and secure technology to share airspace with aircraft; Phoenix Wings will provide drones capable of delivering blood; Skyfarer will coordinate. Innovate UK will provide funding for the project, O2 said.