Drone to deliver masks to Isle of Mull hospital

Skyports drone

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The two-week trial will make use of a large delivery drone

Drone technology is to be used to deliver protective equipment to a hospital on a Scottish island.

Over the next two weeks, masks and a dummy cargo will be flown between Oban in mainland Argyll and the Isle of Mull.

The 10-mile journey, normally involving a road trip and a 45-minute ferry sailing, should take only 15 minutes.

The trial could pave the way for drones to be used in the transport of medical test samples and other supplies.

The project, involving Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, drone delivery firm Skyports and Thales, has required special permission from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Normally drones are only allowed to fly within line of sight of the pilot.

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Sophisticated technology will be used to control the drone when it is out of sight of its operator

The drone will fly between Lorn and Islands District General Hospital in Oban and Mull and Iona Community Hospital in Craignure.

Joanna Macdonald, chief officer for Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The use of drones provides real opportunities to improve services and will help enable quicker diagnosis for our patients.”

The project, which is heavily regulated by the CAA, has been accelerated by the onset of coronavirus.

Duncan Walker, Skyports chief executive officer, said: “Delivery drones are a fast and reliable solution for vital medical supplies.”

He added: “Skyports is proud to assist the NHS in Scotland with their Covid-19 response, helping to provide the essential healthcare that people need in harder-to-reach areas.

“Our trial in Argyll and Bute provides an important short-term response to the current pandemic and lays the foundations from which to grow a permanent drone delivery operation across a network of healthcare facilities around the country.”

The trial is due to run until 5 June.


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