New consortium created to revolutionise medical deliveries, aiming to reduce waiting times for medicine and other medical supplies
Focus is on COVID supplies, pathology samples & blood transfusions delivered via a connected national network
Consortium led by Skyfarer alongside Altitude Angel, O2, Cranfield University, and Phoenix Wings
New delivery system will develop smarter, faster, safer and potentially greener supply chains
Skyfarer, a drone logistics operator, is leading a consortium including Altitude Angel, to enhance the pathology network in the UK by potentially speeding up patient response and sample turnaround times and make drone delivery of blood for lifesaving transfusions a reality. The programme, which will also focus on COVID supplies, will create a new drone network infrastructure, providing a quicker and likely greener form of medical transport across England.
Alongside Altitude Angel and Skyfarer are Cranfield University, Phoenix Wings and telecoms giant O2. The consortium forms the first medical drone delivery network of this type in the heart of England, with plans to create a national infrastructure enabling same day delivery with autonomous drones in the future.
The project has now received operational authorisation for extended visual line of sight operations (EVLOS) with an overweight unmanned aircraft system (UAS) from the Civil Aviation Authority, which gives the consortium the green light to conduct short-range flight demonstrations as part of the project. These will test the capabilities of drones for logistics, with technology trials taking place after Easter and delivery trials taking place in the summer.
The project is funded by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and aims to pave the way for harnessing the power of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to revolutionise the provision of healthcare services and develop smarter, safer, greener supply chains that have no impact on road congestion and no increase in fossil fuel emissions.
This comes at a time when transportation accounts for 34% of the UK’s net domestic CO2 emissions – and when heavy goods vehicles make up 17% of domestic transport emissions.
There are 2.5 million units of blood processed and distributed in the UK every year – and more than 200,000 new blood donors are required to give blood every year across England to replace those who can no longer donate regularly. The consortium’s drone delivery system promises faster turnaround times on autonomous deliveries, which can be processed at any time and therefore provide a more reliable delivery service to meet supply and processing needs for hospitals and medical hubs around the country.
The delivery system will also aim to reduce waiting times for vital medicines and other medical supplies, with the ability to supply medicine to all-terrain and off-track locations. The consortium also hopes that the adoption of drone deliveries will upskill local workers and innovate the budding medical drone delivery sector.
O2 is working in collaboration with regulator Ofcom to support the six-month project by providing SIM cards that will allow 4G and 5G mobile devices to be used in the utilisation of drones for medical deliveries. This will allow for a safe and reliable real-time control mechanism, making it possible for drones to fly safely over long ranges carrying vital medical supplies.
Cranfield University is helping stage technology trials for the project beginning in May 2021, when flights will be taking place at the University’s airport.
These trials have been made possible by Altitude Angel, whose Unified Traffic Management technology ensures that drones are able to share airspace with manned aviation safely and securely.
Phoenix Wings, a German drone manufacturer, are supporting the project by providing a drone with a payload capacity that can meet 97% of vital blood delivery requirements in England.
At the next stage of the project, the consortium will conduct a feasibility study and scoping exercise, which will inform the creation of a drone corridor where UAVs will be able to deliver essential supplies without the need for a human driver. The consortium aims to have fully operational routine medical deliveries taking place by 2022.
Elliot Parnham, Founder and CEO at Skyfarer, said: “A big problem needs a big team – to realise the potential of autonomous drones in medical logistics, our industry-leading partners bring world-class innovative solutions to the problem of enabling routine drone logistics.
“Our future flight challenge project backed by UKRI will bring medical drone delivery to the UK and make a lasting difference to the capabilities of logistics within a nation. Skyfarer will set up the UK’s first medical drone delivery network with lifesaving potential.”
Altitude Angel is an award-winning provider of UTM (Unified Traffic Management) software, enabling those planning to operate, or develop UTM/U-Space solutions, to quickly integrate robust data and services with minimum effort.
From a consistent, well-documented and standards-based platform, drone manufacturers such as DJI and cutting-edge software developers around the world use our Developer Platform to obtain rich, relevant and local geofencing data, exchange and share flight plans, de-conflict their own flights in real-time and interface with national flight authorisation systems. A growing portfolio of enhanced capabilities help our customers to comply with current and future regulations and interface with changing national systems with only minimal effort.
Altitude Angel’s first party solutions also power some of the world’s leading ANSPs, aviation authorities and Enterprises, including LVNL (Netherlands) and Avinor (Norway), empowering them with new capabilities to safely manage and integrate drone traffic into national operations.
Today, Altitude Angel’s market-defining technology is providing a critical, enabling service on which the future of UTM, especially in controlled airspace, will be built across the globe.
By unlocking the potential of drones and helping national aviation authorities, ANSPs, developers and enterprise organisations, Altitude Angel is establishing new services to support the growth in the drone industry.
In 2021 Altitude Angel won a prestigious Air Traffic Management (ATM) Magazine Award in the ‘UTM Service Suppliers’ category, which recognises pioneering technologies and procedures developed by UTM service suppliers to advance safety and complex operations, for its Pop-Up UTM platform. Read more about the awardshere.
Altitude Angel was founded by Richard Parker in 2014 and is headquartered in Reading, UK.