NHS Scotland employs drones to quickly transport vital medical supplies

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The UK’s NHS (National Health Service) is employing the use of drones to help quickly transport vital medical supplies to rural Scottish hospitals.

Drones are helping to transport supplies – including medicines, COVID-19 testing samples and kits, and PPE – to the remote Argyll & Bute region of Scotland as part of a three-month trial.

The drones utilise Vodafone’s 4G network for communication and can travel up to 40 miles (64km) at a time. Each drone is capable of carrying up to 3kg of medical supplies.

Anne Sheehan, Business Director at Vodafone UK. said:

“This is an amazing use of technology to overcome geographical boundaries.

The trial is a big breakthrough, and we hope that we will see drone flights make a real difference for the NHS and for patients in the most remote parts of the UK.”

Argyll & Bute stretches over 2,500 sq m (6,475 sq km) along the west coast of Scotland and has a population of around 86,000 people.

Due to the remoteness of the region, supplies can currently take up to 36 hours to reach their destination. By using drones, supplies can be delivered in as little as 15 minutes.

Scheduled and on-demand flights will service Lorn & Islands Hospital in Oban; Mid-Argyll Community Hospital in Lochgilphead; Easdale Medical Practice in Clachan Seil; and the Mull & Iona Community Hospital in Craignure.

The flights are operated by drone specialists Skyports and are the first to be licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to carry diagnostic specimens.

All flights will follow a predetermined safe route – increasingly called a “sky corridor” – and will be controlled from the Skyports operations centre in Oban.

Public acceptance of drones is increasing and this latest lifesaving deployment could help to further increase the positive sentiment around their use.

A report (PDF) from Vodafone last month found that four in five Britons would support the widespread adoption of drones if stringent safety, security, and monitoring measures were implemented.

Of the 2,000 members of the public polled for the report, the majority support their use for emergency response (86%), police assistance (79%) and environmental conservation (61%).

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