Skyports and Thales are collaborating on a drone-based COVID-19 response trial on behalf of NHS Scotland, the country’s publicly funded healthcare system, to provide the Isle of Mull with coronavirus test kits and personal protection equipment by means of a Wingcopter drone.
With an area of 875 square kilometres, Mull, the fourth-largest Scottish island, holds a population of around 3,000 people. The new two-week drone delivery program, according to Wingcopter, allows NHS Scotland to cut its 16-km COVID-19 test kit delivery times to Mull from approximately six hours, by car and ferry, to just 15 minutes by drone.
“Drones offer the opportunity to quickly and easily take corona tests, drugs or personal protective equipment to places that are difficult to reach by conventional means of transport,” said Tom Plümmer, co-founder and CEO, Wingcopter.
UK drone delivery provider Skyports is conducting the trial and operating the flights, which are being planned through Thales’ drone operations management platform, SOARIZON, to maintain compliant and safe drone flying operations.
“This trial demonstrates the positive role that unmanned technology can play in our society and represents a landmark step to accelerate its adoption,” said Alex Cresswell, CEO of Thales UK.
Thales and Skyports are also working together within the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Regulatory Sandbox program, exploring how regulatory approvals can be granted for more widespread BVLOS drone operations in the UK.
Wingcopter states the Mull drone delivery trial represents a new 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.
The test program in Scotland is the second coronavirus-related project for Wingcopter. Together with its partners UNICEF and the African Drone and Data Academy, Wingcopter recently won up to €3 million for the establishment of a delivery drone network in Malawi, Africa. The award was presented through the SmartDevelopmentHack event organized by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation.