£10.1m boost

Funding helps drone medical deliveries go live

Drone ready to deliver supplies

A service using drones to speed up the delivery of life-saving organs, medicines and other medical supplies has raised £10.1 million to enable it to begin live flights and set up the infrastructure.

It is is the second funding round for the CAELUS consortium that aims to connect hospitals, pathology laboratories, distribution centres and GP surgeries across Scotland, some in remote locations.

AGS Airports is working in partnership with NHS Scotland and 14 other partners including the University of Strathclyde.

Since securing £1.5m in January 2020, the consortium has designed drone landing stations for NHS sites across Scotland and developed a virtual model of the proposed delivery network.

The new funding comes from the Future Flight Challenge at UK Research and Innovation, a £125m investment designed to deliver the third revolution in aviation using carbon neutral power sources and autonomous vehicles.

Fiona Smith, AGS Airports Group head of aerodrome strategy and CAELUS project director, said last year that the project has the potential to revolutionise the way in which healthcare services are delivered in Scotland.

“The second round of funding from UKRI will allow our consortium to undertake live flights and begin to deploy the physical infrastructure needed to support the drones across Scotland,” she said.

“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.”

Scotland’s Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “This innovative project will help position Scotland at the forefront of drone technologies to deliver essential healthcare supplies to people more quickly and provide equity of care between urban and remote rural communities.

“It also demonstrates an effective industry partnership showing that when businesses, universities and public sector work together they can deliver for Scotland and outperform the competition, attracting welcome funding at this challenging time.”

Trials have also been operating from Scotland’s first drone port, Mercury Drone Ports in Montrose,  in a partnership between Angus Council and DTLX funded by the Tay Cities Region Deal.

Another drone operation is focused on Oban, with support from the Argyll and Bute Growth Deal and the UK’s Community Renewal Fund as part of £1.7 billion investment to level-up communities across Scotland.

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