Coronavirus in Scotland: Drones used to carry Covid samples to Scottish island in 'a UK first'

Drones are being used to transport Covid samples and testing kits to a Scottish island on the west coast.

Medicines and other essentials can now be delivered to the island by drone picture: Josh Sorenson
Medicines and other essentials can now be delivered to the island by drone picture: Josh Sorenson
Medicines and other essentials can now be delivered to the island by drone picture: Josh Sorenson

The aim of the project, which went through a trial last year and is believed to be a UK first, is to improve coronavirus related logistics to and from remote locations.

The drones will carry up to 3kg of critical medical supplies and can travel a distance of up to 40 miles (64km).

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Cargo to be carried will include coronavirus test samples, medicine, essential personal protective equipment (PPE) and Covid-19 testing kits.

Drone operator Skyports has been given permission by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to run the flights.

The company confirmed using delivery drones improves access to hard-to-reach areas by significantly reducing the length of transport journey from, what can be, 36 hours for a road and ferry journey to the island to just 15 mins.

The delivery service will initially operate between Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban, Mid-Argyll Community Hospital in Lochgilphead, Easdale Medical Practice in Clachan Seil and the Mull and Iona Community Hospital in Craignure.

Duncan Walker, chief executive at Skyports, said: “Using drone deliveries within supply chains can create significant time and cost savings. This initiative is a natural progression from our recent trials with the NHS in Scotland as we scale our operations, supporting a wider network of hospitals and medical practices as they continue to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The experience from this important initiative will put us another step closer to permanent operations from which we hope more NHS facilities could soon benefit. This project underscores the viability of drone technology as a practical way to move goods.”

Stephen Whiston, of Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, said: "Argyll and Bute HSCP is delighted to once again be at the forefront of using this innovative technology to assess how unmanned drones can enhance our logistics operations and improve services for patients and clinicians in some of our most remote and island communities. This three-month project working with Skyports will provide critical evidence on the real benefits this technology can bring to the NHS not only in Argyll and Bute but across Scotland."

The project has been funded by a joint initiative between the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency Space Solutions.

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