A consortium involving Strathclyde researchers which is delivering the UK’s first medical distribution network by drone has launched its next phase, reports a press release.

Last month, the CAELUS (Care and Equity, Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland) Project secured UKP10.1 million funding from the Future Flight Challenge at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

To celebrate, consortium members, stakeholders and politicians gathered at Glasgow Airport this week for the official launch. Scottish Government Public Health Minister, Maree Todd, provided the key-note speech. Led by AGS Airports, CAELUS brings together 16 partners that also includes, NATS and NHS Scotland.

Together they’re working to deliver what will be the first national drone network that can transport essential medicines, bloods and other medical supplies throughout Scotland including to remote communities.

Since securing UKP1.5 million in January 2020, the consortium has designed drone landing stations for NHS sites across Scotland and developed a virtual model (digital twin) of the proposed delivery network that connects hospitals, pathology laboratories, distribution centres and GP surgeries across Scotland.

This second phase involves live flight trials and removing any remaining barriers to safely using drones at scale within Scotland’s airspace.

Fiona Smith alongside Derek Provan, CEO of AGS Airports (Image: John Linton)

Fiona Smith, AGS Airports Group Head of Aerodrome Strategy and CAELUS Project Director, commented, “The project is set to revolutionise the way in which healthcare services are delivered in Scotland.”

She continued, “A drone network can ensure critical medical supplies can be delivered more efficiently. It can reduce waiting times for test results and, more importantly, it can provide equity of care between urban and remote rural communities.”

Smith added, “As well as being able to undertake live flights we can begin to deploy the physical infrastructure needed to support the drones across Scotland. This will involve building prototype landing bases as well as digital and communication infrastructure. We will also work with local communities to ensure they understand why and how the drones will be used.”

Live flight trials will be operated by CAELUS consortium member Skyports.

NHS Grampian’s Program Lead for Innovation, Hazel Dempsey, said, “Ultimately, we want to explore if drone technology can speed up diagnosis and treatment of medical problems. This has the potential to improve services for those whose care is dependent on rail, ferry or airline timetables and help keep people at home where they can be supported by families and loved ones.”

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(Pics: Caelus/AGS)