Drones to deliver medical supplies to NHS tested

NHS drone takes to the skies in £28m scheme to fly life-saving medical supplies to hospitals during coronavirus lockdown

  • Drones part of £28m scheme to fly supplies to hospital were tested for fast-track 
  • The scheme has been fast-tracked to start flying to the Isle of Wight this week
  • Medicines like chemotherapy kits and blood samples will be flown to hospitals
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Drones that are part of the £28 million scheme to get medical supplies to hospitals during the coronavirus lockdown have seen their first test flights.  

These are the first photos of the scheme’s drones, of different shapes and sizes, being tested in Hampshire. 

Solent Transport want to find the best way to get time-critical medicines like chemotherapy kits and blood samples to NHS hospitals. 

Once the drones are tested they will be used to deliver hospital supplies to Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire, Binstead on the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth’s QA Hospital.  

Solent Transport tested drones that will be used to fly hospital supplies to NHS hospitals in Hampshire today 

Solent Transport is testing different types of drones with different shapes and sizes to see which fly best and can carry the most supplies  

‘We are very excited to support this ground-breaking trial of aerial drone delivery of medical supplies, which will help improve access to healthcare and save lives,’ said the chair of Solent Transport Joint Committee the Jacqui Rayment. 

The first-of-its-kind scheme was funded by the Department of Transport last month but transport minister Grant Shapps fast-tracked it to start this week. 

The drones can carry up to 40kg of supplies and will be flown between the three hospital sites using a Windracers ULTRA UAV.          

A Windracers spokesman said ‘We are very pleased that we are able to contribute to helping the NHS fight Covid-19.

The drones can carry up to 40kg of supplies and will be flown between the three hospital sites using a Windracers ULTRA UAV

‘Our aim has always been to provide a fast, cost effective service to transport humanitarian aid, medical supplies or other critical supplies over long distances, over land or water or hostile terrain or to deliver where other vehicles or aircraft are unable to.’

This scheme comes at a time where coronavirus is stretching the NHS’s resources and supplies. 

  • Cancer Research UK has warned that 2,700 cancers a week are currently going undiagnosed.  
  • The NHS has linked with private hospitals to help with the thousands of cancer patients that are not being treated.   
  • NHS hospitals are short on ventilators and were told to work out how many of their ventilators they could safely use at once. 
  • 40.9 per cent of NHS general acute beds were unoccupied at the end of the first week in April because people without coronavirus are not being treated. 
  • NHS medical staff said their supplies of the sedative propofol as well as the painkiller fentanyl and circulation-boosting noradrenaline are getting low.   

Chinook helicopters from 27 Squadron Royal Air Force are also testing methods of patient transferral from the Isle of Wight to the mainland

Other transport sectors have had to step in to deliver hospital supplies too. 

British Army helicopters were drafted to get equipment to Isle of Wight’s only emergency facility.   

Transport Minister Grant Shapps also started a new Transport Support Unit which is a group of thousands of volunteers with vehicles on standby. 

Highway England has been given permission to use control vehicles as potential mobile testing centres. 

Network Rail’s 8.500 vans and lorries are available to use to transport hospital supplies. 


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