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First medical drone delivery network set to take flight

Saf Malik
March 16, 2021

Consortium led by Skyfarer, O2, Cranfield University, Altitude Angel, and Phoenix Wings aims to reduce waiting times

Skyfarer is leading a consortium that includes O2 which aims to create the infrastructure for a new drone delivery network in the UK.

The plan will reportedly provide a quicker and greener mode of medical transport across the country.

Made up of O2, Skyfarer, Cranfield University, Phoenix Wings and unified traffic management solutions provider Altitude Angel, 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 is funded by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

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 aim to reduce waiting times for vital medicines and other medical supplies to all-terrain and off-track locations.

O2 has announced a collaboration with Ofcom to support the programme by providing SIM cards that will allow 4G and 5G mobile devices to be used in the utilisation of drones for medical deliveries.

Skyfarer founder and CEO Elliot Parnham 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.”

O2 COO Derek McManus said: “We’re delighted to be involved in this trial alongside Skyfarer and our other consortium partners, and hope the project will provide a blueprint for UAV-based logistics to be tested in other areas of the UK and around the world, placing the UK at the forefront of this fast-growing industry. This technology not only has the power to support the healthcare system and save lives, but also reduce emissions usually released by traditional medical delivery transport, helping to build a greener future for Britain.”

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